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Health Security Policy: Where Pakistan Is Standing?

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Mirza Abdul Aleem Baig

The changing landscape of international politics with the changing world order has made it necessary to cooperate and negotiate not only at the state level and on traditional issues such as war, peace, and economy but also on new soft areas that necessitate to be handled separately.

As a consequence of this shift, health security has become more global and fragmentary. Various factors such as climate change, effects of globalization, global social change, migration, displaced people’s movement, and the spread of diseases affect the direction and goals of states’ security and foreign policy. In international politics, one of the important issues that push decision-makers and political leaders is not only peace and war but also health security issues; connected with national security.

Considering that health security is not only related to the socio-economic conditions of states, its development and amelioration contribute to all sectors and fragments of societies but also, it plays an important role in states’ international relations. As health security issues need global cooperation and coordination; for this reason, improving the health of countries, especially those having difficulties dealing with communicable and non-communicable diseases by themselves necessitates a strong collaboration among state and non-state actors as well as multi-stakeholders’ negotiators.

Depending on their priorities, many global actors are now actively diplomatizing health security at regional and international levels. Today, more and more states are not only including health security in their foreign policy through a specific strategy, but also implementing a global health security policy prepared within the collaboration of Ministries of Health and Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

States pursue sometimes cooperative sometimes conflictual health diplomacies at the national and global levels, since they have their self-interest regarding the health security policy. From a realistic perspective, as a theoretical framework of international relations, health security is now a strategic tool that may serve national and security interests not only to ensure national security but also to contribute to the positive image of states that give priority to health interventions in foreign policy.

Also Read: Unified initiatives aim to revitalize Pakistan’s Health sector

As a source of prestige, health interventions give states a better image and a stronger voice in international fora. Until now, Pakistan does not have a documented National Health Security Policy. However, first-ever Pakistan’s National Security Policy (NSP) 2022-2026 had been finally formulated for the first time in 76 years. In that document, the focus on health security primarily revolves around COVID-19, but it falls short of adequately addressing how to prepare and respond to future health emergencies.

Additionally, it lacks serious attention to formulating a comprehensive health security policy. Nevertheless, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination plans to organize the Global Health Security Submit 2024 over two days, scheduled from January 10-11, 2024, in Islamabad. This decision aligns with Pakistan’s current role as the Chair of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).

In a nutshell, the prioritization of the health security agenda of states depends on their strategic interests, however, a comprehensive health security policy prepared in collaboration with Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs facilitates the coordination of health security activities and the global health negotiations. Countries having a structured health security policy can pursue their national interests while claiming that they contribute to global health security and diplomacy, but where a national policy is not developed, the absence of a road map engenders difficulties in terms of healthful progression.

*The author Mirza Abdul Aleem Baig is a CAS-TWAS President’s Fellow at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

**The opinions in this article are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.

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