All Aboard The FCGH Express!
(Posted on imaxi.org 4 Nov. 2016)
Over a year ago, a concept caught our attention and sparked our passions. We heard of the proposed Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), an initiative to develop a legally-binding global health treaty based on the right to health, aimed at closing national and global health inequities. After many frustrating years of activism to advance the right to health, the FCGH idea seemed to be laying tracks in the right(s-based) direction.
We began to study the documents, to exchange e-mails with the welcoming Eric Friedman, point-person of the initiative, and started to mobilise a number of our peers and colleagues. Our interest was not only in the improvements the FCGH could bring to health and well-being, but also in the potential for community participation in the entire process — from drafting, organising and negotiating all the way to advocating for its ratification by individual governments in the future. We saw the development of the FCGH as an opportunity to build a broad-based collaboration between academics, experts and activists, and to practice the meaningful participation of many diverse and marginalised communities in the process. In other words, the practices and process of developing the FCGH excites us.
However, as we learned more, we realised that the initiative had been around for some eight years, circulating amongst a few well-known academics, mostly from prestigious institutions in the US and UK. Although we have been quite involved in global health activism, no one from our communities had ever heard about the FCGH initiative. An innovative idea that could move the world forward seemed to be stuck in the ‘Ivory Towers’.
The FCGH has a very impressive intellectual pedigree, but well-respected academics from elite institutions often have only a theoretical understanding of the realities of living with illness or disabilities while struggling with poverty, inequity or discrimination. Nor have many actually collaborated with any social activists on the ground. Perhaps this explains why, after some eight years, the FCGH initiative has had limited success reaching beyond colleagues working at universities, think-tanks, UN agencies and big NGOs to a broader base of people or organisations, specifically from the communities most in need of ‘health justice’.