Final Communiqué

34th Annual Plenary Meeting

30-31 May 2017
Dublin, Ireland

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The InterAction Council held its 34th Annual Plenary Meeting in Dublin, Ireland, from 30 to 31 May 2017. The Council discussed the impact of planetary health; technological innovation on the future of work; inclusiveness and the rise of populism; and the water, peace, and security nexus. These issues are interlinked in their immense impact on our lives on this planet. Two High-Level Expert Group meetings were convened in preparation for the Plenary Meeting: “The WEHAB (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and Biodiversity) Elements in a Changing World: Developing the Nexus” in Guiyang, China, on 8 July 2016; and “Creating an Inclusive World in the Era of President Trump” in Dublin, Ireland, on 29 May 2017 chaired by Abdel Salam Majali and William Weld.

In 1997, the InterAction Council proposed its Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities based on the values of balancing freedom with responsibility. On this 20th anniversary, the Council placed particular emphasis on the responsibility to protect the planet and adopted the Dublin Charter for One Health as a path forward to safeguarding planetary health and the wellbeing of future generations. 

Safeguarding Planetary Health

Human health, the environment, and the animal kingdom are inextricably linked in a complex ecosystem. Our current geological era, the Anthropocene (or human dominated) epoch, is an era in which human activity increasingly impacts, changes, and causes serious harm to the planet due to the effects of agriculture, industrialization, travel, consumption, and increased contact between humans and animals.

Increased temperatures due to climate change; air pollution; and increased interaction between animals and humans all impact human health. Antimicrobial resistance is an example of this complex interaction. While the development of antibiotics has been vital, its subsequent overuse in both humans and animals will pose new threats when simple infections no longer respond to antibiotics. Medical advances continue but many challenges remain. Scientific advancement will owe its inspiration to a variety of sources, such as observations of the natural world and traditional medicine among other sources.

The health and prosperity of future generations is under serious threat. The gains made in human health and wellbeing over recent centuries could easily be lost unless we make radical adjustments in the way we live, consume, and interact. Our common aim should be a resilient, vibrant planet that sustains an ecosystem wherein humans, animals, and the environment coexist in harmony. Therefore, the Dublin Charter for One Health is a statement of the values of social justice and fairness for all.

Preserving the planet requires an urgent transformation of political discourse. The InterAction Council has previously recognized the universal responsibility to conserve and sustain the planet for future generations in the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities. The Declaration provides that “every person should promote sustainable development all over the world in order to assure dignity, freedom, peace, security and justice for all people.” It also notes that every person has “a responsibility to protect the air, water and soil of the earth for the sake of present inhabitants and future generations.” The Dublin Charter for One Health builds on this responsibility and places a duty on health professionals; public health practitioners; politicians and policymakers; international civil servants working across the U.N. and its development agencies; academics; and the wider public, to develop and implement policies and practices to protect planetary health.

The Dublin Charter builds on the InterAction Council’s Pathfinder for Global Health Security, The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission’s report on planetary health as well as the Commonwealth’s work on sustainable development and health.

Recommendations

1. States, health professionals, public health practitioners, politicians, academics, and the wider public should adopt the principles and recommendations set out in the Dublin Charter for One Health as a pathway forward to address human and planetary health (please see Appendix 1).

The moral imperative of an inclusive world

Populism and significant electoral gains by nationalist-populist movements currently test our democracies, international institutions, and inclusiveness in our societies. These movements have capitalized on people’s fears about the uncertain and the unknown: the changing economic landscape and increased cultural and social diversity due to migration. A lack of transparent public dialogue on the rapid and complex changes has left a leadership vacuum easily filled with populist attacks on elites, global and regional organizations, immigrants, trade agreements, and even the fundamentals of the rule of law. Fake news and quick, direct communication through social media have contributed to fostering sensationalism in politics.

In the United Kingdom, populism culminated in the Brexit vote, which will lead to the UK withdrawing from the EU within two years. The full impact of Brexit on the UK, EU, and its remaining 27 Member States is still unknown, but it will be significant. Brexit will hit hardest in Ireland, which is tied to the UK by trade and history. The peace deal between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is also in peril, in particular if a hard EU border is reinstated on the island. It is unclear whether those voting to leave the EU were aware of all the consequences. Voters in France rejected the anti-EU presidential candidate, giving hope to pro-EU movements across the region.

Across the Atlantic, Venezuela proves to be a cautionary tale for populist movements. Short-term political gains have come at great cost to a country that has one of the largest sources of petroleum wealth in the world. Yet, the healthcare infrastructure is failing, their army is bloated, and the population is food insecure.

The principles of inclusion and dialogue are at the very core of the Council’s work. Peaceful, secure, and prosperous societies can only be achieved in a setting where everyone is treated humanely and where everyone can influence their destiny. We must restore civility and make our societies work for all persons regardless of their social, ethnic, regional, political, and socio-economic background. Inclusiveness also entails dialogue with those with whom we disagree. Isolation is not the way to resolve disagreement, nor is it a helpful counterweight to populism. The concerns and fears of those seduced by populist agenda should be taken seriously and met with solutions that address the root causes (socio-economic, cultural) of their fears and seek to pave the way for understanding and reconciliation through education, transparency, and fact-based reporting.

Recommendations:

1. To further the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, leaders should adhere to a strict code of ethics denouncing hate and racism, commit themselves to inclusion, and develop equitable societies, rather than exploiting disruption and uncertainty for short-term political gains.

2. Reform proposals should be put forward to address institutional weaknesses, fragmentation, and legitimacy in global governance.

3. The freedom of speech and independence of the press must be respected at all times.  Competition among messages in the media is necessary to provide a diversity of voices.

4. Facilitate dialogue through academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and community outreach to discuss and explain the impact of changes in economies and the values of open societies, to create positive and inclusive spaces for those discussions.

5. Encourage diverse, challenging, and free fact-based debates on issues important to social and cultural identity by supporting independent research across a wide range of disciplines.

6. Climate change and migration are examples of issues impacted by the populist agenda, yet they are transnational challenges that can only be addressed on a global scale coordinating the multilateral efforts of many nations and institutions.

7. Leaders should recognize the role played by disruptive narratives promoted through new modern technology platforms and tools. If leaders hope to oppose disruptive narratives, they can no longer communicate with their constituencies exclusively via traditional channels and must be prepared for asymmetric attacks.

8. Areas in which there are windows of opportunity for greater engagement between states should be pursued to facilitate truth-building and creating peace. In the Arctic, for example, nations must achieve the collective goal of preserving the fragile environment and preventing conflict.

The impact of innovation on future work and a global economy that works for all 

Contributing to the feelings of exclusion, rapid technological change has made electorates less secure about their futures and more fearful about whether they can participate meaningfully in the modern economy. The concerns are real. Polling from Edelmnan’s “Trust Barometer” revealed that 67 per cent of Americans believe that the system is failing them while 31 per cent said that they feared the pace of technological change.

Over the last decade, there have been significant technological and business architecture innovations. Social media’s rise to prominence has made platforms such as Facebook and Twitter ubiquitous across mobile devices worldwide allowing political leaders direct access to their supporters, eliminating all filters between candidates and voters. 

Perhaps as a result of the 2008 financial collapse and high levels of youth unemployment, a generation avoided acquiring assets through their adoption of sharing economy solutions. For example, Uber, an application that implemented new, innovative business architecture for car sharing, has become the most valuable private company in the world. And machine learning finally emerged from research labs into product areas that potentially could impact the working life of tens of millions of people. There is great potential for machine learning to one day enable replacement of Uber’s car fleet with autonomous vehicles.

Innovation in technology, however, has not been matched with innovative thinking around the moral and philosophical implications about how these technologies should be implemented. Too often, profitability has been the only measure of success.

In 2016, the InterAction Council travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan, where the Council explored the impacts of productivity tools and factory floor automation on “traditional” middle class sources of employment. Co-chaired by former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, the high-level meeting considered how technology may affect youth employment. It was noted that even a career of driving trucks is no longer safe from disruption.

The nature of work is fundamentally shifting, aided by technological advancement (e.g. computer vision, machine learning, innovations in algorithms, and artificial intelligence among other areas). While artificial intelligence is poised to replace significant functions currently performed by human labour, it also has the potential to create new jobs that have not yet been imagined. To participate, workers will need new skills, ways of thinking, and ways of learning. These must be instilled in the next generation through education, so that people have the flexibility to respond to the rapid changes.

For too many, it is already too late to retrain displaced workers for the jobs of the future. Such workers will be forced to rely on social safety nets. It is important to innovate our social systems so that they can manage uncertainty and be responsive to the ways in which work is changing. Here, the outcome of Finland’s Basic Income experiment will be illustrative.

Recommendations:

1. Productivity tools and automation have drastically changed the employment landscape and will continue to do so. Policy makers must be aware of how advances in technology will change the way employers will hire and what future work will look like.   

2. Political leaders should commence social assistance reform to make programs more responsive to the increasingly precarious, temporary, and flexible nature of work, as well as the need for continual retraining to keep up with innovations.

3. States should enable regulatory environments to facilitate flexible work, to reduce the environmental impacts of congestion, reduce pressure on housing prices, encourage female participation in the workforce, and support those caring for dependents.

4. Education ministries should create education policy designed to ensure that future workforces have the skills to participate in the economy. Governments have the responsibility to prepare for the impacts of globalization and automation.

5. Governments should be prepared to retrain workforces for roles in the digital economies of the future.

Water, Peace, and Security

Many transnational challenges are directly related to water insecurity, climate change, and threats to human health. Water insecurity both drives and is the result of climate instability and climate change. Persistent water insecurity in the Middle East was one of the important factors that led Syria to civil war, now in its seventh year. This is an old problem: lack of water access also contributed to the 1967 Six-Day War fought between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Today, constant conflict in Syria has done much to contribute to refugee migration, human suffering, threat of pandemics, and terrorism. As frightened and exhausted refugees migrate, they become more likely to risk exposure to deadly pathogens and communicable diseases.

In Syria, persistent drought and water policy failures impacted farming resulting in chronic food shortages. These shortages caused massive internal migration from farming regions to urban areas. Protests resulted from a lack of access to food and employment, and the Syrian government reacted violently.

In previous years, conventional wisdom trusted that nations were more likely to cooperate with neighbours around transnational issues, especially transboundary waters. The parameters of relative hydrologic and climatic stability are no longer governed by that conventional wisdom and we cannot assume that neighbours will choose to cooperate.

We must move beyond easily measured environmental changes, such as those associated with rising sea levels. Other important issues are less immediate and less observable and relate to how the cascading effects of climate disruption and growing global water insecurity will impact the most fragile governments and political institutions.

In 2015, the UN proclaimed its 2030 Transforming Our World global sustainable development framework. From this framework, we now have a definition around what sustainability means, our goals, and a timeline. Beyond this sustainability framework, we must consider how to drive restoration as too much damage has already occurred. While the 2030 Transforming Our World global sustainable development framework provides a way forward, what is missing is a binding common commitment to act.

The InterAction Council continues its work in this critical area that began in 2011 with the publication of The Global Water Crisis: An Urgent Security Issue, the product of a high-level expert group meeting chaired by Jean Chrétien.

Recommendations:

1. Water insecurity, climate change, and migration are examples of issues impacted by the populist agenda. These are transnational and intergenerational challenges that must be addressed on a global scale coordinating multilateral effort.

2. Planetary health will only be achieved through the full implementation of the United Nation’s Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The framework should be transformed into a binding common commitment. 

3. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should not limit itself to sustainability. The framework should also consider vital and necessary restoration efforts.

4. Though the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a much welcomed first step, it should expand its stakeholders to include representatives from the science, technology, and private sector communities to ensure that the framework remains politically viable.

5. Monitoring of water quality and governance should be implemented as good public policy cannot be created without a full understanding of the problem.

6. Water security should be more centrally placed on the international agenda and the Council looks forward to welcoming the recommendations from within the forthcoming September report to be issued by the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace.

APPENDIX 

THE DUBLIN CHARTER FOR ONE HEALTH

Preamble

The Charter for One Health is a statement of the values of social justice and fairness for all. The Charter is focused on collective action to protect and promote health and wellbeing; prevent disease and disability; and foster resilience and adaption that respond to the fragility of the planet and the obligation to safeguard those aspects of the environment that are essential for human health in the Anthropocene epoch. It builds on the Universal Declaration for Human Responsibilities.

1. A right to benefit from the earth’s bounty is balanced with an obligation to respect, care for, and restore the earth and its natural resources.

In the Anthropocene epoch, in exchange for the right to benefit from the earth’s bounty, we have an obligation at all levels society – personal, community, national, regional, global and planetary – to respect, care for and restore the earth and its natural resources. In addition, it requires radical adjustments in the way we live, work, produce, consume, generate our energy, transport ourselves and design our cities.

In the face of threats to human health and wellbeing, the sustainability of civilization, the natural and human made systems that provides support, there are obligations and responsibilities placed on all to nourish and sustain the diversity of life within which we co-exist and on which we depend.

2. Everyone has an obligation to respect life by conserving, sustaining, and making resilient the planetary and human systems essential for the health of humanity and the wellbeing of future generations.

To support these actions, there is a need to agree on a statement of values and practices based on our interconnectedness, cooperation and individual action focused on conserving, sustaining, and making resilient the planetary and human systems on which health depends.

3. Sustainable development is dependent on peaceful societies and an obligation on all to contribute to human security.

Sustainable development is dependent on an environment of peace and stability. This is an obligation for all to invest in more inclusive societies and minimize the effects of disasters to create conditions for all people to thrive. In areas of conflict and post-conflict, we must aim to make health a bridge to peace, focusing on conflict prevention.

Action for One Health

1. Co-ordinated local, national, multilateral, and global solutions are required to tackle poverty, global environmental change, peace and justice, access to clean water, and responsible production and consumption.

2. Increased resilience is needed to respond to emerging threats and to tackle the driving forces of environmental change in order to enhance the integrity of the natural systems on which humanity depends.

3. Environmental health should be integrated into health budgeting with a preventive approach. There is an obligation to expand trans-disciplinary research to address gaps in knowledge through defining the links between health and environmental change, and to develop potential adaption strategies for populations subject to environmental change.

4. There is an imperative that governance, accountability, monitoring and independent evaluation be improved and policy, legislative and regulatory changes will be necessary in all sectors related to health – social, economic and environmental determinants and patterns of international commerce, trade, finance, advertising, culture and communications.

5.  Fearless leadership is needed, as well as whole societal engagement, recognizing that governments acting alone will not be able to deliver One Health and will require broader leadership from civil society, the scientific community, academia, local government and the private sector supported by a global learning network.

6. Establish an independent accountability mechanism to ensure monitoring and review of the aforementioned Actions for One Health.