A unique meeting is taking place in Africa today. The Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health, hosted by the Republic of Mali, is being held in Bamako, and is the first of its kind to be held in Africa. It is the first time, too, that a unique assembly of partners has come together with a common vision to promote the importance of research for health. The World Bank, World Health Organisation, and the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation are joining together with two civil society non-governmental organizations – the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) and the Global Forum for Health Research – in what the conference organizers hope will be the birth of a multi-stakeholder governance mechanism.
“One of the achievements for Bamako 2008 is to get the partner organizations working together to try to develop a multi-stakeholder governance mechanism for research for health, because no one organization can do it alone This is being discussed as a platform to take Bamako beyond 2008. It has to be inter-sectoral, involving lots of stakeholders including civil society,” says head of the conference secretariat, Ania Grobicki.
“It would not necessarily a new organization because in this day and age, we’ve got virtual networks and they’re the way to go - but they need to work. There is now a real opportunity for these organisations to work together, through networking and inter-sectoral action,” she said.
“Research for health is broad, across the spectrum, so there’s lots of networking needed. Technology is now available to do this, to help improve implementation of research results and policies to improve people’s lives on the ground. We need research to provide long-term vision for the way in which things can be done. It allows us to prioritize and structure how future health can be safeguarded. People are beginning to appreciate the long-term vision is more important; short-term action can be valuable but can cause a lot of waste, duplication and unintended consequences such as the weakening of health systems because of vertical programmes. A long-term vision can forestall that.”
She said it had been a long road since Mexico in 2004 when the first ministerial summit was held. That conference provided the push for WHO to develop a strategy on research for health which is going to be discussed here at Bamako and which will go to the World Health Assembly next year. Health systems research has been strengthened, and a number of preparatory meetings have been held in regions building up to Bamako.
“I really hope that people will see that the process has generated a momentum that would not otherwise have been there. By 2012 perhaps once the multi-stakeholder governance mechanism is working, it will be possible for the international community to use that mechanism to start to look at some of the urgent crisis issues such as environmental health, climate change,” said Ms Grobicki. The conference will focus on the process and the systems that are needed.