Global Health and Foreign Policy: toward a common EU agenda

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. UN Photo/Mark GartenGlobal Health Europe strongly supports the UN Resolution on "Global health and foreign policy" (A/RES/64/108) adopted at the General Assembly by consensus on the 10th of December 2009, and seeks support for our request to High Representative Ashton to bring European Member State Foreign Affairs representatives together with the European Health Community to discuss the creation of a common agenda for health and foreign policy.

We suggest that this process should be linked to the ongoing discussion of the "EU Role in Global Health" and should engage academic, business and civic society groups. We therefore invite interested stakeholders to suggest items to be included in the agenda for EU Global Health and Foreign Policy.  To submit your suggestions please log-in and leave your comments below.



In 2002 the Nuffield Trust UK, one of the founders of Global Health Europe, organised the first International Conference on Global Health and Foreign Policy together with the RAND Center for Domestic and International Health Security. The conference brought together high level representatives from five countries and the Director General of WHO. This conference was a starting point for a growing realisation of the close links between health and foreign policy in the era of globalisation.

Many countries including Switzerland and the UK supported wider dialogue on this issue, recognising that "Foreign policy today is no longer the property of chancelleries and diplomats. The world's great trading firms and great civil society movements make foreign policy too" as Dr Dennis MacShane the UK Minister for Europe noted at a Chatham House meeting.

In 2007 Foreign Ministers of France, Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, and Thailand met in Oslo to call for a common agenda on Global Health and Foreign Policy. Their declaration gained momentum, leading to the debate at the UN General Assembly on the 10 of December 2009 and the adoption of a consensus resolution supported by representatives from all parts of the world including Sweden speaking on behalf of the EU. The resolution stressed that global health is a long-term objective -- local, national, regional and international in scope -- that requires sustained commitment and closer international cooperation beyond emergency. It welcomed the coordinated international response to the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic but acknowledged, with serious concern, that global influenza vaccine production was insufficient to meet anticipated need in pandemic situations, notably in developing countries.

The debate was supported by a paper prepared by the Director General of WHO identifying the health-related challenges that must be addressed by foreign policymakers and foreign policy issues that have a significant impact on health.

Health-related challenges include:

  • Addressing the role of health in national and global security
  • Meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals
  • Ensuring access to and affordability of medicines
  • Controlling emerging infectious diseases, including sharing biological materials
  • Bolstering international support for strengthening health systems
  • Addressing the challenges facing global health governance
  • Integrating health into all policies and addressing non-communicable diseases.

Foreign policy issues that affect global health include:

  • Security, arms control, armed conflict and post-conflict challenges
  • The global economic and financial crisis
  • Natural disasters and emergency response
  • Climate change
  • Food insecurity
  • The promotion of health as a human right
  • Migration.

Recommendations include:

  • Identify and act on global health issues that require foreign policy action at national, regional and global level
  • Strengthen political and institutional capability for foreign policy action on global health
  • Improve information for foreign policy diplomacy on global health issues
  • Improve policy coherence and involvement of diplomatic forums in global health
  • Improve training of diplomatic staff in global health issues and provide open source training materials for them.

Further Background Documents:

- Backgrounder on Health and Foreign Policy (PDF) produced by Professor Graham Lister following a Ditchley Foundations Conference held in 2002.

- UN Resolution and the Secretary General's note on Global Health and Foriegn Policy:*&index=.AT&term=Global%20health%20and%20foreign%20policy&ultype=PD01&uloper=%3E&ullimit=2003

- For a webcast of the Debate visit: and scroll down to 10 December.


What key issues should make up a common European agenda on Global Health and Foreign Policy?

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