Health Diplomacy: Science Diplomacy, Human Values and Obesity

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 210G (San Jose Convention Center)
Peter Gluckman, Office for the Prime Minister's Science Advisory Committee, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington, New Zealand
The multiple purposes of what has come to be labelled science diplomacy have long been recognised:  On one hand are the scientific efforts that can meet diplomatic goals (for instance in building trans-national relations, projecting national influence, in addressing aid issues, supporting international agreements such as arms control and regulatory or trade discussions); on the other are the diplomatic initiatives that can enhance global knowledge production (for instance in assisting international research infrastructure and programs, in agenda-setting assessments on climate change or efforts to ease the mobility of scientists).  In this duality, science concerns itself  with producing new knowledge about an issue while diplomacy concerns itself with the values-based aspects of how shaping the environment to enable that knowledge to be produced and used. Practitioners have increasingly sought to optimise this complementarity. Health diplomacy intensifies this relationship because human health is where the hallmark concerns of science and of human values are most acutely felt.  Where questions of health meet fast moving and often uncertain scientific knowledge, the stakes are arguably heightened.  This is intensified further when the slate of stakeholders includes everything from multi-national corporations to children in low socio-economic circumstances and across nations of very different economic status. Resolving these issues is compounded by  issues that extend well beyond health to political, economic, social and ideologicql considerations and advocacy often becomes conflated with the evdiential base.  If global solutions are to be reached, the interests of different stakeholders need to be reconciled.  I draw on experience as co-Chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity to illustrate the rather unique challenges of global health diplomacy and the importance of a broad multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach if effective solutions are to be reached.