Orbinski: political innovations offer hope for better global governance

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Dr. James Orbinski opened the 2011-12 Signature Lecture Series by saying that, despite setbacks, global health efforts are gaining momentum.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. James Orbinski.

We all have a responsibility to speak up and demand the politics of justice.

“Like humanitarianism, politics is an imperfect project,” Dr. James Orbinski said, as he kicked off this year’s Signature Lecture Series at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient and world-renowned physician offered his perspective of good global governance and humanitarianism to a sold-out crowd and live global audience via webcast on September 22, 2011. After giving a keynote address, Orbinski was joined in conversation on stage by David Welch, director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and CIGI chair of global security.

Orbinski stated that we are in the midst of a worldwide revolution in global health and such occasions of momentous change “are rarely accidents.” Global health is gaining attention within global governance mechanisms and institutions, from the G8 and G20 agenda to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

These are signs of progress that highlight our capacity as human beings to be innovative, he said. He added that despite such attention, global health is in need of reform. Developed countries are poaching human resources from emerging economies — there are more Malawian doctors in Manchester, England, than in all of Malawi — and are disproportionately funding a health system that inappropriately focuses on non-communicable diseases, thereby contributing to global health inequality.

Emphasizing the theme of good global governance and humanitarianism, Orbinski recounted parts of his experience in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and the international community’s lack of response to the war crimes. Genocide is politics as we chose to live it, he said, and we all have a responsibility to speak up and demand the politics of justice.

Orbinski ended his lecture by stating that the right kind of change is possible. Progress does not live in utopian or naive dreams, but in the pursuit of greater equity; the rise of many movements from lost causes to great achievements illustrates this point, he said. Developments such as the founding of the International Criminal Court exemplify our ability to enact change.

The discussion between Orbinski and Welch drew on questions from audience members at CIGI, as well as questions posted via the webcast discussion board and Twitter. A full video of the video is available here: http://www.cigionline.org/videos/event-video-dr-james-orbinksi-humanitarianism-and-global-governance.


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Kevin Dias
Centre for International Governance Innovation
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