Health security begins at the country level. Countries need to have the capability to prevent, detect and respond to all hazards. But even when a country developing these capabilities by itself, no one country can manage all potential threats – or fully make use of the benefits of learning about them – alone. The tremendous interest towards WHO’s Joint External Evaluation (JEE) process has already shown that countries see value in an independent, voluntary assessment.
The JEE Alliance builds upon and supports these efforts at different levels by providing a platform for countries, organizations and other actors wishing to enhance health security across the globe. It is a network for mutual learning and exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as for creating innovative solutions for financing and other resourcing.
Cooperation at the global level facilitates capacity building at the national level, where the health system strengthening takes place. Human health sector alone cannot tackle the threats spanning across sectors of governance and spheres of life. Multisectoral commitment is needed. It is also smart: health security capacity building will serve in responding to all threats, as the mechanisms of responding to emergencies often are similar regardless of the origin of the crisis.
Finland will undergo a JEE in March 2017. In the course of preparations, we have already come across some of the opportunities and challenges of a multisectoral, OneHealth approach in practice. Preparing the self-evaluation through multistakeholder teams is already a learning process, which has prompted us to look into the specific roles and responsibilities of each actor in preventing, detecting and responding to health threats. To secure a high level commitment of all relevant sectors, the process is coordinated through the Security Committee, a broad-based cooperation platform that assists the Government and ministries in issues of comprehensive security. The Security Committee consists of Permanent Secretaries from all ministries, the Office of the President and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as experts representing different administrative branches, national authorities, civil society and the business sector. The Committee follows developments with an impact on the Finnish society, and coordinates preparedness and response. We are implementing the recommendation of involving the highest levels of government in the process to ensure the political commitment and sustainability of building and maintaining capacity across the different sectors. Governance can take different forms in different countries, and thinking about existing structures can be very useful.
For a Finn, the exclamation “Jee!” could be translated as “yes!”. It is an informal but well-known expression of positive spirit, shared enthusiasm and can-do-attitude. I like to think that the tremendous interest towards external evaluations and boosting country capacities has this same connotation of joint commitment, cooperation, and mutual respect.
Global health threats do not recognize country borders, but neither does cooperation. Each actor has their expertise and a vital role to play in mapping, planning and implementing the path towards a better prepared world. The JEE Alliance, as a flexible platform for systematic collaboration, seeks to contribute to this process by facilitating timely action and functioning coordination.
Following this line of thought, openness, transparency and a cross-sectoral commitment can help make sure that we will continue hearing those inspirational “JEEs” in the future as well.