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Public health and the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development

November 8, 2011

by Robert Mtonga

IPPNW Co-President Dr. Bob Mtonga. Photo by Aki Morizono

I represented IPPNW at the  just-concluded  2nd Ministerial Review Conference of Armed Violence and Development (2MRC), which was co-convened by the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference was held in  Geneva from  31 October to 2 November.

The 2MRC was convened to review progress made, by the signatories to the Geneva Declaration (GDAV) on Armed Violence, on taking the commitments therein enshrined forward.

A political declaration, the GDAV, is a tool that brings states, non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies and academic institutions to a round table to discuss a broad international agenda that places armed violence at the core of business with a view to finding workable ways and means that will translate into a meaningful reduction of armed violence and its ramifications on the ground and in the lives of affected individuals, families and communities in real time.

Attended by more than 96 States and 70 members of civil society organisations including IPPNW, the 2MRC was an exchange mart that offered  and allowed a fertilization of fresh insights, best practice and revision of others into what was working on the ground and what was not yielding fruit in spite of  the best intentions  of the myriad of actors.

The 2MRC specifically focused on how armed violence affects   development in its broadest sense with a call to putting people first as the rallying cry.

A high level plenary set the scene with the President of the Swiss federation, Michelline Calmy-Rey calling for more action on the front by making linkages between armed violence and (under)development. A vehement argument was made on how reduction in armed violence would lead not only to saving and rationalisation of resources, but to saving lives and limbs.

The UNDP’s Helen Clark informed the audience on how and why the UNDP has taken the fight to armed violence arguing gullibly that no meaningful development would take place in a matrix of armed violence and human right abuses which armed violence facilitates.

The rest of the proceedings on day one focused on the scope, scale and solutions to armed violence ad development. The presenters and discussants included the ICRC, UNDP, Brazil, Morocco, OECD-DAC among others. A veteran of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Ms. Zeinab Badawi, did a first class job in fielding real-life questions, fetching the audience candid answers out of the experts.

A number of presenters made reference to public health and ways in which armed violence affects it and how public health can help inform the debate on armed violence.

The day ended with the presentation of the Outcome Document of the 2MRC.

Day 2 opened with a plenary session that sought to provide answers towards armed violence reduction and the need for a paradigm change. Key findings from the World Development Report 2011 were highlighted and lessons learned on armed violence and its effect on development held up to view.

Breakaway sessions took the topics to the deep-end through sessions that included:

  • Conflict, armed violence  and insecurity as challenges for development
  • Monitoring and measuring armed violence: making it relevant for programming
  • The challenges of armed violence in urban areas
  • The role of the private sector in  armed violence reduction programming
  • Mayors and local authorities against armed violence
  • The tools of armed violence; controlling small arms and light weapons
  • Mainstreaming armed violence Prevention and reduction into development strategies
  • Involving youth in armed violence reduction
  • The importance of Crime Prevention and justice reform for effective armed violence reduction programming.

A final session was held on priorities that lay ahead with a summary of the results of thematic sessions with a view to operationalisation of the Geneva Declaration on armed Violence and Development. I engaged with the actors during the presentations, making the case on the importance of public health in the paradigm change needed to stop the devastation caused by armed violence on people, their environment and futures. I fielded questions during breakaway sessions, made contributions and shared information leaflets with participants, and also spoke with many delegates during coffee/tea and health breaks.


IPPNW made contributions to the idea of a CSO proposal of a new Alliance to work on taking the GDAV programme forward. IPPNW’s language was included in the document – specifically two paragraphs on public health and aid agencies and on involvement of survivors.   A special brain-storming session was held at the behest of IPPNW to allow more CSO participants to engage with the process.  Many CSO delegates appreciated our inputs on such recommendations as organizing along thematic and regional working groups and establishing clear roles that encourage participation and decision making by multiple stakeholders.

Dr. Mtonga is a general practitioner in Zambia, with a special interest in diabetes, injury prevention, and health and development issues. He is Co-President of IPPNW.

One Comment
  1. November 8, 2011 6:27 pm

    Keep it up, Bob! Keep it up

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