“How can government usher in a better future?” The Key is Collaboration

Written by One Young World Ambassador Alba Tiley for the World Government Summit.

Complex challenges we face today related to global health or climate change know no boundaries, geographic or otherwise, and cannot be solved by individual governments alone. While national governments have a duty towards their own citizens, the public sector must strive to solve our mega-issues through increased collaboration and openness rather than by turning inwards.

Vast, oft untapped resources of knowledge can be found in the non-profit sector, private enterprise and even within neighboring countries and among public consultations with ordinary citizens. Each of these groups has a unique potential for contribution and governments should engage these actors to build partnerships for knowledge-sharing as well as galvanize awareness and ownership of major issues.

A model example for collaboration arose as a global response to the Avian Flu in 2005. The “One Health” approach is a new way of working across sectors and disciplines within the context of global health and in the past few years has gained significant momentum. The approach has been formally endorsed by organizations such as the European Commission, US Department of Agriculture, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), various Universities, NGOs and others.

What makes One Health so unique is that the concept is not meant to be “possessed” or “mastered” by any one organization or institution; it is a flexible and comprehensive network approach and can be promoted by various institutions, but should not be institutionalized. It is a recognition that multiple parties are working toward a similar goal from various angles and strengthen each other together. Governments can take the role of championing collaboration between groups to pilot and apply such cross-sector, multi-disciplinary approaches to other mega-issues too.

Take for example the pressing issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (or AMR), whereby strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and can create a serious danger to public health, the environment and economic stability. AMR was recently referred to as the “single greatest threat to humankind” at the 2016 UN General Assembly where 193 countries signed a declaration to act against AMR.

Yet, it is a complex phenomenon with multiple interlinked causes that is not fully yet understood. There is broad agreement that the rampant misuse of antibiotics in human consumption and farming as well as environmental pollution within the production process are the major causes of the issue. But when an issue spans human health, environmental issues and animal welfare it requires a comprehensive solution that addresses its drivers in full which is problematic to coordinate. A number of simultaneous interventions are required including initiatives to preserve antibiotic effectiveness while still ensuring food security in low- and lower-middle-income countries as AMR does not respect national borders. Only through an aligned approach with all involved actors can we expect to solve such a problem.

Governments must explore new international political and cross-sectoral collaborations fitting of our time that improve coordination and real outcomes. Examples of cross-disciplinary and cross-border cooperation to solve mega-issues such as climate change, AMR and malnutrition are what I look forward to learning at the World Government Summit 2017.

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