Virtual Event: Does COVID-19 Make the Case for the W H O?
Examining the Local Impact of a Global Response
Panelists: Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Dr. James Orbinsk, Dr. Peter Singer, Moderated By: Danielle Bochove
Apr 24, 2020
Do we defund the WHO? This question has been reverberating across editorial pages over the past days. To answer this question, and examine the role of the World Health Organization in co-ordinating a global response to COVID-19, Peter Singer, special advisor to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, will join James Orbinksi and Ilona Kickbusch
“They called it wrong. They call it wrong. They really, they missed the call.” – U.S. President Donald Trump on April 7, 2020, accusing the World Health Organization of having not been aggressive enough in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, examining the role of the World Health Organization is more important than ever. U.S. President Trump has now announced that his country will suspend funding to the organization, accusing it of failing to adequately assess the outbreak when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan, China. While the WHO is often seen as a remote international health governance body, the organization is having an enormous impact on Canadians as our public health leaders follow WHO recommendations on fighting the spread of the virus. Meanwhile international non-governmental organizations operate across the globe and struggle to balance global directives with local realities. From travel bans to physical distancing to the wearing of face masks, the WHO has to navigate decision-making and providing advice against a backdrop of competing geopolitical pressures and increasing public scrutiny.
So how do we measure and understand its value in the COVID-19 world? Join the Empire Club of Canada for an expert examination of the WHO’s role in global health governance and its leadership’s current approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s how it informs local government responses or it is affecting NGOs’ decisions operating on the frontlines, understanding the impact of this organization and its ability to lead partners in an international health response is critical.
Professor Ilona Kickbusch
Founder and Chair of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva
Professor Ilona Kickbusch is the Founder and Chair of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
Professor Kickbusch key interests relate to the political determinants of health, health in all policies and global health. She established the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute and in this context advises countries on their global health strategies and trains health specialists and diplomats in global health diplomacy.
She is a member of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board and the WHO High-Level Independent Commission on NCDS and is co-chair of UHC 2030. She acts as Council Chair to the World Health Summit in Berlin. She has been involved in German G7 and G20 activities relating to global health and chairs the international advisory board for the development of the German global health strategy. She publishes widely and serves on various commissions and boards. She initiated the @wgh300 list of women leaders in global health. She is program chair of the leaders in health network SCIANA. She is co-chair of a Lancet FT Commission on “Governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world.”
Professor Kickbusch has had a distinguished career with the World Health Organization. She was a key instigator of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion and WHOs Healthy Cities Network and has remained a leader in this field, most recently advising on the WHO activities related to Promoting Health in the SDGs. She was the director of the Global Health Division at Yale University School of Public Health and responsible for the first major Fulbright Programme on global health. She has published widely and received many prizes and recognitions.
She has been awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz) in recognition of her “invaluable contributions to innovation in governance for global health and global health diplomacy”.
Dr. James Orbinski
Professor and the inaugural Director, York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research
Dr. James Orbinski is a professor and the inaugural Director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. As a medical doctor, a humanitarian practitioner and advocate, a best-selling author, and a leading scholar in global health, Dr. Orbinski believes in actively engaging and shaping our world so that it is more just, fair and humane. A champion of health and humanitarianism throughout his career, Dr. Orbinski has extensive leadership, advocacy, and research experience in global health. He has worked providing medical humanitarian relief in situations of war, famine, epidemic disease and genocide with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF). He was elected International President of MSF from 1998-2001, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999, and co-chaired the founding of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative in 2004, which has since launched six new drug treatments for tropical diseases, and has 17 others in its research and development pipeline. He also co-founded Dignitas International, which researched health systems and clinical care, trained more than 12,000 Health Workers, and supported more than 370,000 people with full treatment for HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Dignitas also worked with First Nations communities in Northern Ontario on community-based interventions for diabetes.
Dr. Orbinski is a board Member of Grand Challenges Canada, and has been a member of several bodies committed to improving health equity both in Canada and around the world. These include the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, and the Climate Change and Health Council. He is an invited member of the Davos World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Health Care Systems and Cooperation. He is the author of the award-winning and best-selling book An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century. In 2016-2017, as a Fulbright visiting professor to the University of California-Irvine, he worked on modelling the health impacts of climate change. He is currently a Commissioner on the 2020-2022 Lancet Commission on Arctic Indigenous People’s Health.
During the COVID Pandemic, Dr. Orbinski is a formal advisor on community based public health strategies to identify and manage COVID infection as well as the establishment of a 400-bed COVID-19 Treatment and Recovery Site for homeless people in Toronto. He has also established the DIGHR COVID-19 Global Health and Humanitarianism Portal to support humanitarian practitioners and community groups in the global South in their response to the COVID Pandemic.
As the inaugural Director of the Dahdaleh Institute, Dr. Orbinski aims to make the institute a leader and catalyst in addressing global health issues, reflecting York University’s commitment to equity and trans-disciplinary research. The Dahdaleh Institute focuses on 1) Global Health and Humanitarianism 2) Planetary Health and 3) Global Health Fore sighting.
Dr. Orbinski holds a BSc from Trent University, an MD degree from McMaster University, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Toronto. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received the Meritorious Service Cross for his leadership in providing direct medical relief in Kigali during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He is a member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. An avid canoeist, Dr. Orbinski lives in Guelph, Ontario, with his wife and their three children.
Dr. Peter Singer
Special Advisor to the Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization
Dr Peter Singer is Special Advisor to the Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization. In this role he supports the Director General to transform WHO into an Organization sharply focused on impact at the country level. Dr Singer co-chaired the transition team; was the architect of WHO’s strategy and its “triple billion” target; works with colleagues to guide consistent strategy implementation of WHO’s programme budget, results framework and first investment case; and provides leadership to the secretariat of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Wellbeing to strengthen collaboration for better health among 12 multilateral agencies that channel 1/3 of development assistance for health.
Before joining WHO, Dr. Peter Singer co-founded two innovative, results driven, social impact organizations. From 2008-2018 Singer was Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada. During this period Grand Challenges Canada raised CAN $450M to support 1000 innovations in more than 90 countries, which have the potential to save 450,000-1.6 million lives and improve 11-35 million lives by 2030. From 1996-2006 he was Sun Life Financial Chair and Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. He was also Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto and Senior Scientist at University Health Network.
In 2007, Dr. Singer received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in Population Health and Health Services. In 2011, Singer was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to health research and bioethics, and for his dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (where he was Foreign Secretary), the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).
As a researcher, Dr. Singer published over 300 articles, received over $50 million in research grants, and mentored hundreds of students. He studied internal medicine at University of Toronto, medical ethics at University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. He served his community as Board Chair of Branksome Hall, an internationally minded school for girls.
Print Journalist, Bloomberg
Danielle is a Bloomberg print journalist who writes extensively about mining and climate (and now Covid-19). She has previously worked as a national television and radio anchor for The CBC, as an anchor for Canada’s Business News Network (BNN), and as a print reporter and television anchor for Reuters in Chicago, Tokyo and London. A Senior Fellow at the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, Danielle majored in International Relations and English Literature at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College.