A plenary session was devoted to a debate in which two teams argued for or against the motion ‘Resetting of local priorities is essential to progress against inequalities in global health’.
This innovative plenary session involved audience participation, with delegates having an opportunity to agree or disagree with the motion proposed. At the start, 61% of the audience were in favour, 3% against, and 36% undecided.
Moderated by Professor Catherine Hankins, former chair of the EDCTP Scientific Advisory Committee, two panellists then spoke in favour of the motion – Dr Francisco Saúte, Director General of the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM), Mozambique, and Dr Magda Robalo Correia Silva, Institute for Global Health and Development, Guinea-Bissau.
Arguing against the motion were Dr Nkandu Luo, Global One Health Institute, Lusaka Environmental Health University, Zambia, and Professor Margaret Gyapong, University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), Ghana.
Short presentations from the panellists and interventions from the floor raised a range of issues. These included the need to address root causes of health challenges rather than high-level global goals, the failure to take a cross-sectoral and cross-government approach to address health inequalities, and the need for priorities to be set at a more local level to reflect local contexts.
Other comments included the need to shift away from discussions and priority setting and focus more on action, the lack of realistic timelines for some objectives, and a lack of accountability for achieving targets – including the suggestion that political leaders should be held more accountable for the commitments they make. It was also noted that a systems-wide approach might be preferable to a focus on individual pathogens or diseases.
Overall, concerns were raised about who was setting priorities and the continuing legacy of colonisation, the lack of accountability for achieving priorities, and the appropriate levels at which priorities should be agreed and targets set.
At the end of a thought-provoking and occasionally passionate debate, a second vote was taken. This time, 54% of the audience were in favour, 30% were against and 16% were still unsure. Hence, the team arguing for the motion gained the most votes but the team arguing against saw the biggest increase in its share of the vote – so perhaps both teams could claim to be winners!