IFMSA at the 9th Conference of Youth (COY9)

The 9th Conference of Youth (COY9) has been an inspiring way to lead-up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19).  Held over the past four days preceding the COP, it offered participants the opportunity to network with similar minded youths from across the globe. Youth from the international community joining together to prepare for the upcoming climate negotiations is symbolic of the inter-generational equity challenge that climate change poses. Passionate about climate justice and equity, the voice of youth offers an insightful and passionate discourse to the climate change discussions. From different backgrounds, cultures and experiences; the enormous challenge which climate change poses to our generation transcends barriers of language and unites participants in forming a platform of solidarity in preparation for the next fortnight of negotiations.

Various topics discussed at the Conference of Youth have included resilience, the influence of big business on COP19 and climate negotiations, and the Polish energy economy and positions of local stakeholders. Workshops have focused on skill building and sharing across a variety of areas, with much opportunity for participants to shape the direction of the discussion. We learnt about how and why different participants are passionate about climate change and the environment, and what their goals and aspirations for the coming weeks were. A passionate delegate from the Maldives shared her experience and perceptions of climate change with the knowledge that her homeland lies just 1.8 meters above sea level and will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of warmer temperatures and rising sea levels.

There has been vibrant discussion on climate justice, systems of oppression, and the empowerment of youths and communities. COY9 also provided information and training to people wishing to partake in actions whilst at COY9 or COP19. Participants then applied this knowledge to create an action of solidarity related to the recent typhoon tragedy in the Philippines. It is hoped that from this recent tragedy will come concrete action during COP19 to protect those global communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The irony that it is also these same communities who have contributed least to global carbon emissions and global warming should not be lost on anyone, particularly big polluters and those in allegiance with them for political and economic reasons.

The voice of youth will offer a valuable contribution to the critical climate negotiations taking place in Warsaw over the next two weeks. Let’s hope that it is one that is heard.

Charlotte Holm-Hansen & Rachael Purcell

World Health Summit: A Global Health Experience

Over the few past days, we have been lucky enough to attend the fifth World Health Summit, held in Berlin. This meeting gathers together hundreds of global health actors, leaders and stakeholders. The aim of the WHS is to improve health worldwide through catalysing collaboration and open dialogue thereby setting tomorrow’s agenda for improved research, education, health care and policy outcomes.

The WHS was preceded by the student satellite workshop, “Building future leaders, health in all policies” co-organised by bvmd-Germany, UAEM, IFMSA and EMSA. The agenda of the satellite event was broad but topics that featured particularly were Universal Health Coverage in the framework of the post 2015 agenda and global health education. Among other discussions, the idea of health in all policies and global health diplomacy were discussed at length, two concepts that we judge to be at heart of global health these days (and that we hope you will get to know better this year via the Think Global Initiative!).  

So what is “Health in all policies.” This is a phrase who has be coined by WHO and aims to capture the notion that health is far-reaching (social determinants of health), well beyond the health sector and that health should be taken into consideration in policy development from all sectors. Contrasting health students’ ideas for policies in the areas of economics, water and education with those suggested by the United Nations allowed us to consider how other sectors consider health, coming to the conclusions that in general sectors are happy to siphon off areas of responsibility to the health sector if possible.

In our globalized increasingly complex and interdependent world, health has become an integral part of three global agendas: security, economic and social justice.

Global Health Diplomacy, on the other hand, ties together health and foreign policies. As developed by Ilona Kickbush – who was kind enough to give one of the students’ debriefings during the World Health Summit – global health diplomacy can be defined as the “multi-level and multi-actor negotiation processes that shape and manage the global policy environment for health”. Furthermore, in our globalized increasingly complex and interdependent world, health has become an integral part of three global agendas: security, economic and social justice. Many countries, including the United States, Norway, Japan and more recently Germany, have established national Global Health strategies and some even set up specialized offices.

However, it is easy to see that many questions arise around this topic: is global health diplomacy really serving for a better world or is it used to push a not-so hidden agenda? On the international level, global health diplomacy has become more prominent in the past two decades, especially with the international pledge to meet the millennium development goals by 2015, three of them being directly related to health issues. As members states and civil society are currently discussing the sustainable development goals (the famous post-2015 global agenda), we can only be sure that the concept of global health diplomacy will become more important as there is a growing awareness that investment in health is fundamental to economic growth and development, as the Oslo ministerial declaration of 2007 states.

We had the chance to further understand those two issues during the Summit itself, with a program jump-packed with various talks by diplomats, ministers, health leaders, global stakeholders. The different agenda items focused on themes such as research and innovation, education and leadership, evidence to policy, and global health for development. But educational as all the sessions clearly were, it was extremely refreshing to hear Sir Michael Marmot bring the discussion back to social determinants of health. Bold statements such as “I want to see economics debated as if people matter” resonated strongly with the youth contingent at the conferences and Sir’s closing statement of , “Do something, do more, do better” will continue to motivate us.

There is enough money to do whatever we want. We aren’t limited by resources but by their distribution. – Marmot

Youth engagement in the discussions was incredible with excellent quality of speeches and extreme respect for the voice of the youth demonstrating just how much young IFMSAers and other young students are contributing to the global health arena. Students asked questions, approached speakers and dominated the Twitter scene (check out #WHS13). In particular we appreciated the “New Voices for Global Health” sessions, where it was uplifting to hear about young health leaders trying to demystify the complexities of global health challenges: from the problem of access to healthcare in Nigeria to the place of health in the sustainable development negotiations.

So we had have learnt a lot, and fascinating global health debates took place. A few of the youth did begin to wonder what the utility of such gatherings is and how the WHS could become more action orientated. However, mostly we came to realise that we believe more than ever, that young and passionate medical students are shaping the global health agenda starting in their hometowns and universities. The next generation of global health advocates are not only thinking up new ideas but they are creative, solution-oriented, practical, innovative and actioned!

As Josko Mise, IFMSA President, said earlier this week, “Young people are not part of the problem; they are part of the solution.” Their ideas must be heard.


Claudel P-Desrosiers and Anya Gopfert
Think Global Initiative Coordinators 2013-2014 

More info if you’re interested in Health in All Policies, the post 2015 discussions, and Global health diplomacy:

Health in all Polices:

Global Health Diplomacy:

Post-2015 & Sustainable Development:

Ps. If you want to get involved with Think Global, drop us an email at !

Taking Steps Forward: Adopting a vision and mission

One may ask: why is that so important for IFMSA? The answer is quite simple. A clear vision gives us the strength to move forward, a mission pushes us to thrive in the international community. 

Over the past years, IFMSA has expended its priorities to include societal issues, such as climate change, universal health care, noncommunicable diseases, social determinants of health and many more to address those current issues that challenge achieving quality, accessible health for all. As our federation has been continuously evolving and growing since more than 62 years, its members felt it was time to take an internal review of the values, principles and objectives of the federation.

The story of IFMSA’s Vision Building began in the term 2011-12, when IFMSA’s leadership began exploring key questions about the direction that IFMSA should be striving for and as well how should IFMSA strive to achieve.  A small working group led by Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE 2012/13 on Mission and Vision sparked momentum for the Federation to officially commit to this process.  (Past Blog– Moving Ahead IFMSA, What our members are saying?)

IFMSA members Vision Building

Through guidance, creativity and great dedication,  Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec) led the IFMSA Task Force on Vision and Mission. They had a great challenge–to deliever a a new mission and vision for IFMSA by August Meeting 2013, while ensuring that all voices were included in its creation. “The journey wasn’t easy. The process had started in 2007 but no conclusion was reached until recently. It’s not simple to give a Federation something that truly represents the spirit, values and ideals of its 1.3 million members coming from 110 different countries. But with your help, your valuable input and your trust, we were able to make it a success. And I would like to sincerely thank you for that. We are extremely proud that this mission and vision reflect the voices of medical students worldwide, your voice.” -Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec)

Mission and Vision Survey 2012/13

A world in which all medical students unite for global health and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and values to take on health leadership roles locally and globally.

IFMSA unites medical students worldwide to lead initiatives that impact positively the communities we serve. IFMSA represents the opinions and ideas of future health professionals in the field of global health, and works in collaboration with external partners. IFMSA builds capacity through training, project and exchange opportunities, while embracing cultural diversity so as to shape a sustainable and healthy future.

As we work to make this Federation reflect who we are and what we want to achieve, this newly adopted mission and vision statement provide us with a foundation to expand our impact and to shape the healthy world as we envision it.

August 5th was a memorable night in which the plenary has seized the opportunity to make IFMSA history and to do as the head of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, told us to do just a few days before: “it cannot be business as usual”.

We are very excited about our mission and vision, as the process of strengthening IFMSA has just been realized, the new few months and years will be very exciting for the Federation!

A special thanks to the the Task Force and those that contribute to the process.

Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec), joint author of this post
Coordinator of the 2012-2013 Task Force on IFMSA Mission & Vision

Members of the Task Force: James Lawler (AMSA-Australia), Elizabeth Wiley (AMSA-USA), Khalid Almak (medsin-Sudan), Kimberly Williams (CFMS-Canada), Jason van Genderen (IFMSA-NL), Jelte Kelchtermans (BeMSA-belgium),  Thomas Adongo (MSAKE-Kenya), and Roopa Dhatt (IFMSA President).