Geneva Health Forum – Unique Platform for Dialogue in the World’s Global Health Hub
Pierre Strauss

The Swiss Confederation has been a key financial backer of the Geneva Health Forum since its early days. As the GHF prepares for its 2022 edition, 3-5 May, Pierre Strauss, health attaché to the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, spoke with Health Policy Watch about the evolution of the Forum and its relevance to the “International Geneva’’ landscape. 

Health Policy Watch: Given the situation we have now in Ukraine and the increasing polarization we see between Russia, China and the Western world – which could lead to fall out in other big meetings Geneva will be hosting, such as the World Health Assembly, what can you say about the Geneva Health Forum. Does this forum offer opportunities for more bridge-building?

Pierre Strauss: The forum is not a political platform. The forum makes the link between scientific practices at country level, researchers, practitioners and the Geneva ecosystem. So as dramatic as the situation is in Ukraine right now and notwithstanding the worldwide consequences of the war, the issue here is really health, global health. If there are initiatives that can be taken from it to alleviate medical needs in specific countries, including Ukraine, certainly this is very positive. But this is not the objective of the forum. 

HPW: What’s your vision for the GHF’s outcomes? 

Strauss: A. For us, as the Swiss Mission to the UN in Geneva, Geneva is a “Center of Excellence” when it comes to global health, and so the Forum is a unique platform for people to come and discuss, share experience, when it comes to health. So we see the forum as a place with convening power, which brings together various stakeholders of the Geneva ecosystem and beyond.  We see this as a very important tool, not only to make the link between the researchers, but between the researchers and the international organizations – because this is what makes Geneva unique.  We have an extremely rich ecosystem of organizations, such as: the University of Geneva, the Graduate Institute, the HUG, WHO, as well as other international organizations and health-focused NGOs, so I think the Forum offers this unique perspective and opportunity to link the two worlds.

HPW: Do you have a vision for future developments? What kind of new ideas or new energies would you like to see developed in the Geneva Health Forum in the coming years?

Strauss: I should emphasize that the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is supporting the Forum financially, but we are not part of the organizers. We are supporting the event because we think it has a role to play in the international Geneva. We think the current Forum has been extremely successful to date, in taking concrete research from the field and sharing it with practitioners – to see how knowledge can be shared or approaches can be scaled up. Alongside that, I think there is a potential for the Forum to play more of a role in health diplomacy, making the link between recent research findings and the international organizations when it comes to policy – and how all of this fits into the health agenda here in Geneva.  

Geneva Health Forum 2020 discussion on NCDs. Increasingly the Forum is focusing on the broader global health agenda, alongside sharing clinical experiences.

HPW: So it’s evolving into a kind of two-pronged effort, you could say?

Strauss: Yes, the Forum is a place where you can learn about recent clinical research and medical research. But in terms of future directions, as shown with the Planetary Health approach, we can reinforce the link between the Forum, international organizations and the broader global health agenda of International Geneva. 

HPW: The Planetary Health and One-Health theme this year might be an example of that kind of evolving focus? 

Strauss: Yes, we can see that in the One Health, for instance, we see that there are actually a lot of discussions that are no longer only about clinical research, but about policy, as well. You know, like in Geneva, you have for instance, the discussion over the Pandemic Treaty. And you have questions aligning to biodiversity, for instance, and how, nowadays, we see that biodiversity has also an impact on health. So, if you look at the theme of the Forum this year, here, looking at One Health, which reflects  the complexity of health risks, it is opening up new doors into issues of health diplomacy that the Forum can explore further in future editions.

To Register for the Geneva Health Forum click hereSee more about the themes and features of the Geneva Health Forum’s 2022 edition:

Image Credits: Geneva Health Forum.

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