By YENA SEO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Expository)
The Special Summit on Sustainable Development (SSSD) gathered to discuss development and global responses to major health crises during the first session of the Harvard National Model United Nations Conference (HNMUN). Inspired by the disastrous Ebola outbreak that affected a number of developing nations and killed scores of people, the SSSD sought to find new solutions and initiatives to better address future crises.
While all nations were in mutual agreement on the need for better, more tailored responses to global health crises, various blocs began to form as countries supported and emphasized specific initiatives. One commonly cited idea was to improve infrastructure within countries, specifically developing ones. Several nations supported the idea of a global emergency fund for health crises to combine resources on an international scale.
“The current healthcare system is clearly not working, and we need to revitalize healthcare systems and infrastructure,” the delegation from Cuba said. “There is also a need to invest in education to improve infrastructure.”
Several delegations noted that the Ebola outbreak became so widespread and disastrous because countries and international organizations were not sufficiently equipped to tackle the disease. Particularly during the Ebola crisis, doctors and medical staff within affected regions were not fully trained or incentivized to adequately aid patients. Additionally, medical teams and volunteers were also not culturally competent when working with specific regions.
“Doctors and volunteers were not trained or culturally aware during the Ebola outbreak, which was a major failure in our response,” the delegation from the Russian Federation said. “As a result, we support peer-driven intervention and local investment.”
Several other nations noted that a major failure of the response to the Ebola outbreak was the lack of communication and organization, on the local, national and international levels. This lack of communication ultimately made on-the-ground efforts to contain the outbreak confusing, and led to mistrust between patients, governments and international organizations.
“There was a lack of communication between international organizations such as the World Health Organization and individual nations, as well as individual governments and the public,” the delegate from Thailand said. “This leads to a lot of mistrust and ultimately resulted in failure to effectively respond to the spread of the Ebola virus.”
Towards the end of the committee session, member nations had started to divide into various blocs to tackle the issue. Many nations wanted to emphasize local, grassroots efforts, while other nations wanted to deal with international standards and cooperation.
“It’s important that we look for initiatives that will improve post-health-crisis development on both the local and global levels,” the delegate from the Russian Federation said. “Otherwise, we will have an incomplete, ineffective system.”
Delegates from the Special Summit on Sustainable Development wishing to speak in a moderated caucus.