Back to London, Part 2


The final conference for the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health was filled with wonderful sessions and panel discussions. It was the last formal gathering with the other Commissioners whom I’ve worked with for 3 years. The Commission’s final report is very unique. The WHO set up the special Commission to collect evidence of social determinants of health and recommend action, which is normally done by existing top-down orders of societies. So, the report’s recommendations will of course take time to put in place. Some of the recommended actions may simply be impossible. The greatest challenge is to implement what the Commission has identified. This is just a starting point.

In this "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" world, as Thomas Friedman puts in his new book, an unprecedented change is happening on a global scale. If humans cannot adapt, it will be too late. Different regions and countries are already being affected in ways that threaten to make the world unstable. Many people have been driven from their homes due to riots, strife and war. This is happening not only in Africa, but in areas of Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir. I fear that the situation may worsen over time. Poverty, lack of water, food and energy, and the movement of people will most certainly create further instability.

One piece of good news is that the United States seems to be on its way to regain trust and confidence of the international community by electing Senator Barack Obama as its next president. No one had imagined his victory even a year ago. However, Mr. Obama probably cannot afford to just focus on the rest of the world as he needs to fulfill his campaign promise to revive employment in the US.

In this global world, companies and non-government organizations will increasingly move beyond existing national frameworks and become more international. But politicians of democratic nations will basically remain local as they get their jobs by being elected in their countries.

I am posting some images from the conference. I hope you will enjoy the webcast and the website. You can listen to some amazing speeches by Hilary Benn (Photo 1&2) who I met at the May G8 Environment Ministers’ Meeting, Prof. Paul Hunt and former president of Ireland, Ms. Mary Robinson (Photo 3&4). I’m also in the Cafe Conversation on the afternoon of Day 2.

Dsc00241Photo1  UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn

Dsc00275Photo2  With Secretary Benn (The red flower on his lapel is for Poppy Day to commemorate the war dead. I was wearing one too. )

Dsc00276Photo3  Ms. Mary Robinson

Dsc00280Photo4  Ms. Mary Robinson and Conference MC, Mr. John Humphrys of BBC

On Friday, the second day of the conference, I skipped the final session and left for Heathrow Airport at 4:30 pm to fly to Dubai.