FSI’s Global Health Diplomacy Course advocates, “Everybody can be a health diplomat”

The pilot run of the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI’s) Basic Course on Global Health Diplomacy affirmed and advocated that “Everybody is a health diplomat.” The Course was conducted online from 13 – 16 July 2021.

The 13-hour training program was collaboratively designed by FSI’s Training Specialists, with inputs and  guidance from subject matter experts from the Department of Health (DOH), various offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Philippine Permanent Mission in Geneva  (Geneva PM) covering the World Health Organization.  This effort was conceptualized to introduce the basics on global health, including global health governance;  global health instruments; and the various issues that health intersects with, such as trade and migration.

The Course provided a platform for challenging exchanges between diplomats and health practitioners on how health diplomacy is handled and shaped in the multilateral, regional, and bilateral fora. The timing of the Course paved the way for a common yet differentiated experiences during a pandemic, as expressed by the Course participants,  putting discussions on health issues and their all encompassing impact on the individual level and society in general. 

The idea for the introductory Course started from conversations between a public health practitioner, a diplomat,  and members of the Philippine delegation: Dr. Joel H. Buenaventura, MD, MPH, Chief of the International Relations and Diplomacy Division of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation-DOH, and Minister and Consul Maria Elena Cristina D. Maningat of the Philippine Permanent Mission in Geneva (Geneva PM),  resulting in a concept paper on the said advocacy. 

Dr. Joel H. Buenaventura, MD, MPH, who trained at the pioneer training institution for Global Health Diplomacy, the Global Health Centre of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies based in Geneva, shared his knowledge, and insights on Global Health Diplomacy, Global Health Governance, and Global Health Instruments.
Minister and Consul Maria Elena Cristina D. Maningat frames Global Health through the Three Pillars of Philippine Foreign Policy: National Security, Economic Diplomacy, and Assistance-to-Nationals.
Diplomats, health professionals, and researchers alike affirmed through their reflection and sharing that indeed, “Disease knows no borders.”
Course participants were Philippine Foreign Service personnel in the home office, consular offices in Cotabato, Legaspi, Puerto Princesa, San Nicolas, Santiago, Zamboanga, in various PH embassies and consulates abroad such as Ankara, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Brasilia, Canberra, Dhaka, Jeddah, Madrid, and Santiago, and staff from the Bureau of International Health Cooperation of the Department of Health.

This learning opportunity highlighted that global health diplomacy is not just about pandemics; it covers a range of issues, such as climate change/air pollution, universal health care/health equity, non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, health in conflict crisis, adolescent health/teenage pregnancy, infectious disease such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, water, sanitation, and hygiene among others.  

Discussions echoed that even beyond this pandemic, capacity building of diplomats, health practitioners, and other stakeholders must be sustained and  collaborative efforts between the DFA, DOH, and other stakeholders strengthened.  

FSI commits itself as an active advocate and partner of DFA and DOH in  continually building up the capacity and competencies of both diplomats and health experts to effectively navigate the various global health governance venues where global health issues and Philippine health priorities are discussed, debated, and decided on.

Gallery of speakers and organizers of the Basic Course on Global Health Diplomacy. (From top left to right): Dr. Joel H. Buenaventura, MD, MPH (DOH), Minister and Consul Maria Elena Cristina D. Maningat (Philippine Permanent Mission in Geneva); Principal Assistant Kevin Mark R. Gomez (DFA – United Nations and other International Organizations); Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum West (DFA – Office of ASEAN Affairs); Assistant Secretary Eric Gerardo E. Tamayo (DFA – Office of the Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations); Assistant Secretary Erico T. Fos (DFA – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs); Charge d’Affaires Robert O. Ferrer, Jr (Philippine Embassy in Russia); Economic Officer Winston Dean S. Almeda (Philippine Embassy in China); Mr. Jose Ariel Lanada (President, Filipino Nurses Association – United Kingdom); Ms. Maria Olive E. Taclan (Head, FSI – Diplomatic Tradecraft Programs and Area Studies Section); Ms. Dulce Amor N. Fortunado (FSI); Ms. Nellivi Nicole Zapata (FSI); and Ms. Bernadette Cordero (FSI).