People and health activists from all over the world returned to Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh where the People’s Health Movement physically and spiritually began in 2000.
18 years following the first People’s Health Assembly and 40 years following the Alma-ata declaration, the People’s Health Movement were back in Savar for the fourth People’s Health Assembly to critically discuss progress towards a world in which there is Health for All.
The following are some highlights from the Assembly and some key take home messages…
Energy and Spirit
An incredible energy and spirit permeated through the whole assembly and was at the core of everything people said or did. There was this wonderful openness and freedom for people to express themselves. The tone was set on the first day as health activists from South Africa and TAC (Treatment Access Campaign) brought the assembly to their feet in voice and solidarity as they beautifully sang songs of resistance and calls for PHM to move forward together.
With the delay in formally starting the assembly, we had the chance to sit and talk together as a region within Europe. We discussed common overarching challenges that are harming people’s right to health. In particular, we shared stories of the devastating impact of the ‘hostile environment’ created by different governments and how civil society has mobilised against this.
Connecting to culture and nature
Embedded within the assembly was a celebration of people’s culture and of a connection with nature. This was summed up beautifully in Mauricio Torres’ talk where he shared ‘Sumak Kawsay’ or Living well / Buen Vivir, which is deeply rooted within indigenous communities in South America.
“Good living for all living entities, respect to Mother Earth, respect and defend life. The search for complementarity and solidarity for the good of all; with the strength of our ancestors. The struggle for social change, for land and territory, for the right to food and the right to water.”
Solidarity Clinics, Greece
This was an immense talk highlighting the devastating impacts of the economic crash and consequent austerity measures on access to healthcare in Greece. The Social Solidarity Clinics, purely run by volunteers provided free at the point of access, healthcare for vulnerable populations. They relentlessly campaigned against the unjust policies preventing access to care and were instrumental in shaping a more equitable system, that led to the government opening access to care for all.
What did we come back with…
PHA 4 was invigorating, empowering and most of all we left with hope that a different future is possible. Here are some of the key things we feel are important as we work locally as PHM-UK and for us to continue to act in solidarity globally:
- The need to focus on the causes of the causes of the causes of social injustice and health inequities.
- As neoliberal policies continue to privatise healthcare and erode people’s social determinants to health, it is fundamental to take a human rights based approach to resist these policies and create a more just and equitable, alternative system. This is fundamental as going back to human rights can be transformative not only in campaigning against the current inequities but also to create a different narrative so that we can imagine a different future.
- Participation in and with communities is so important to create shared connection to people and planet. As Mauricio Torres’ beautifully put in his talk, ‘solidary is the tenderness of communities.’ We were opened up to this wonderful community of health activists all over the world, the People’s Health Movement. We need to continue to share our experiences, to learn from each other and continue to advocate and act for equity, ecologically-sustainable development and peace to achieve our vision of a better world.
Tributes to Amit Sengupta
Following the People’s Health Assembly, we were really saddened to hear of the passing of Amit Sengupta. Amit was an inspirational person who gave so much to the People’s Health Movement all around the world. In his closing speech at the PHA, he spoke of there being “magic in the air” at the assembly. Now, more than ever, it is so important that we take that magic with us and put it into everything we do to create a more fair and just world. You can read tributes in honour of Amit, here on the PHM website.
- Look out for exciting updates soon about plans for World Health Day on 7th April
- You can read the full report from the People’s Health Assembly here – https://phmovement.org/pha4-report-key-issues-and-demands/