I got the strong impression last week that Margaret Chan, the dynamic leader of the World Health Organization is a closet karaoke singer! In order to highlight that partnership between agencies, developing countries, financing partners and between governments and civil society has to be based on trust, she sang a few lines of the song ‘getting to know you‘ from the musical The King and I. I am not sure that anyone else could have carried it off, but the combination of Margaret Chan’s sense of humour, her sincerity and her commitment really helped build an atmosphere of partnership, and made the point that it is important that we understand each other as individuals and agencies if we want to work effectively towards a common objective.
The International Health Partnership meeting brought together Ministers of Health from a number of countries, with the leaders of international health agencies and civil society representatives who have committed themselves to improving health and accelerating progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I think the communiqué from the meeting is a useful step forward, but as with most international meetings, it was in the side meetings that important decisions were made and the possibility of real progress was highlighted. I’ll soon write about a meeting with Michel Kazatchkine, which gave Mozambique a bit of hope that it might be chosen as a National Strategy Application pilot country – but more on that in another blog post.
Continuing my ‘audacity of hope’ theme, which I adopted for this Geneva trip, I think Margaret Chan is a person with the audacity to hope and with the skill and leadership to turn hope to reality. The coming months are going to be the test of that leadership as commitments forged in Geneva this week are translated in to practical action at the country level. I think we are in for some exciting months ahead.