My trip to the World Health Organization’s Annual World Health Assembly and why Bill Gates was in attendance as well.
On May 17, 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted its annual World Health Assembly in Geneva. Lucky for me, I was able to attend, given my status as a UN intern! Normally, I attend conferences that have an environmental component, but in the spirit of academic inquiry I decided to learn about a topic I knew little about, vaccines. I must admit that for me the subject matter is not incredibly thrilling; however what I did find intriguing was the speaker the WHO had invited this year; William Henry “Bill” Gates III, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr. Gates is quite an interesting man, he is a billionaire 50 times over yet has donated most of his wealth to his foundation. What on earth could this foundation be doing with all that money?! Well for starters, he would like to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. In his address, Gates called on all 193 member states to make vaccines a central focus of their health systems.
All in all, it was one of those UN-like speeches that set high standards, that many believed could not be reached, and that needed further and strengthened commitments from global leaders and nations. He was surprisingly well spoken (for a science geek, I believe I have the right to say that as a geek myself…) and conveyed a succinct and powerful message to the audience.
But all I could think about as Gates pushed more aggressive vaccination development was that this would mean more people. More people that needed to be fed, clothed, etc. Can the world support 10 million more people by 2020 as Gates predicted? I really don’t mean to sound uncaring or selfish, but we have reached carrying capacity on our earth, there is no more room. Shouldn’t we focus on conserving the scarce resources we have left, not create more humans to destroy or consume? But I suppose that is why I am at the environment school and he is at the WHO.
So now I feel like a bad person, and a bit confused but I am glad I went. It is so important to take this time I have here in Geneva and really develop my knowledge of international issues, such as vaccines. Hopefully the next conference won’t leave me feeling like an anti-humanitarian…