Decolonising medicines and global health: We need genuine and lasting reforms that put patients in the driving seat

“Black Lives Matter protests spread across the world after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in May. © Shutterstock/Tverdokhlib
Geneva, Switzerland, houses the headquarters of many of the institutions of global public health. © Shutterstock

You can look through the windows and see the meetings taking place where life-and-death decisions for many millions of people halfway across the world are being made.

It’s a very curious thought. What happens here defines the life chances of families and communities thousands and thousands of miles away, far from Lake Geneva and its diplomatic luxury cars lining the glittering lakeside.

“There is a hair between being a defender of people’s right to health and being a colonial tool…”

Neocolonialist attitudes in medical and humanitarian organisations can be discerned in many ways: strategic decisions are exclusively made at the top of the hierarchies and in the centres of power, usually by a narrow stratus of people; those making the biggest decisions are much more privileged and much less at risk than those affected by them; “consultations” and “advocacy” take place among a limited and exclusive group of people who are neither diverse nor willing to stray far from the conventions.

Tammam Aloudat is a Syrian physician. He has been a humanitarian medical worker for the past 20 years with MSF and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

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MSF Access Campaign — Medicines Are Not a Luxury

MSF Access Campaign — Medicines Are Not a Luxury

This blog is a place to reflect on our experiences working for access to medicines. For the official MSF Access Campaign website please visit msfaccess.org.