May 1, 2019

In Geneva, as in Washington, Private-Sector Engagement is Critical to Global Solutions

By Linda Dempsey, Vice President at National Association of Manufacturers

Geneva is the nerve center for many multilateral organizations. It is home to an array of critical United Nations-related groups such as the World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, and World Trade Organization. These institutions play an important role in tackling many challenges at an international scale, pertaining to areas from global health and innovation to labor rights and advancing important initiatives such as the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.

Real, lasting progress towards these goals depends on broad approaches, innovative thinking, and inclusive strategies. The private sector has long supported a fair, stable, rules-based international system and effective international institutions. The private sector has already been a key partner in many of these efforts and continues to seek to work to collaborate on effective solutions to global challenges. With critical resources and expertise useful to both the development and the implementation of global initiatives, companies and business groups need to be part of the solution. As the complexity of these challenges increases, engagement and partnership between international organizations and the private sector will only grow in importance.

To this end, I am in Geneva this week leading an international business delegation that includes leading global businesses and associations from a variety of industries. We will be meeting with member state representatives from around the world to discuss public-private sector engagement and their missions’ leadership on international issues. We will also be engaging on issue priorities and ways to work more productively with key stakeholders, including international organizations, national governments, and others, towards more sustainable and inclusive efforts to address global issues.

While we will be discussing issues across multiple organizations, a major milestone of interest is the WHO’s upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) taking place at the end of May. The WHO is an organization that has historically had many successes, notably thanks to proactive, inclusive mission-focused approaches to global health problems. For example, in the fight against polio, the WHO helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a strong international public-private partnership whose actions have led to a 99.9 percent decrease in incidences of polio worldwide.

The timing is good, given the WHO’s current focus on reorganization and reform as well as the WHA’s packed agenda. Manufacturers in the United States support the common goal of a more effective, transparent and mission-focused WHO that is responsive to member state leadership and works towards consensus-based approaches to critical health challenges. The WHA agenda will provide another opportunity for the organization to work towards these solutions and to implement direction from its Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to embrace public-private partnerships and inclusive, two-way dialogue with private sector groups in the development and implementation of public health initiatives.

On public health, as on an array of global challenges, manufacturers need to be at the table with their expertise to work with the WHO, national governments, and other stakeholders to find real solutions to pressing global issues and promote clear leadership in driving a sustainable agenda. Our Geneva mission trip is a key step in engaging those constructive voices that are looking for solutions.