Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Diplomacy panel discussion

On Monday, October 19th the Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Diplomacy Project hosted a panel discussion highlighting Strategic Health Diplomacy. Moderated by Ambassador Nicholas Burns, leader of the Future of Diplomacy Project at HKS and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, participants in the conversation included: former UK Shadow Secretary of State and head of Department for International Development Douglas Alexander, former Commander of US Pacific Command and Central Command Admiral William Fallon, former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Ambassador Jim Glassman, Harvard School of Public Health Professor and FXB Center for Health and Human Rights co-director Jennifer Leaning, and PEPFAR’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Douglas Shaffer.


Dr. Shaffer began the panel painting a picture of how HIV/AIDS was affecting Kenya when he arrived there to begin implementing PEPFAR in 2004 and the transformation he witnessed following US and multilateral investment. Dr. Leaning stated the need to continue global health investment to, “marshal the resources necessary to finish the job,” to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals related to global health. Proposing tuberculosis (and multiple drug resistant tuberculosis) as a critical area to focus international resources towards, Leaning emphasized targeting specific interventions “so that disease does not overtake the world.”


As the conversation transitioned from the health clinicians to the perspective of national security leaders, Ambassador Glassman laid out some of the initial findings from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s forthcoming report demonstrating the secondary effects that recent US global health interventions have had on the economies, stability, and hearts and minds of our partners. Speaking from the perspective of a US military leader, Admiral Fallon described his conversion over time to the notion that national security begins with the basic individual well-being of the citizens of our partners. He stated, “Strategic health has tremendous capacity to leverage goodwill through the provision of personal security.” During his tenure as PACOM Commander, 2 million children in the area of responsibility were dying to preventable diarrheal diseases. Douglas Alexander also spoke to challenges in Asia, reminding the audience that there are more people living in poverty in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.


Following the panel discussion, participants joined leading national security practitioners and academics for a dinner sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center at the Harvard Faculty Club to discuss its upcoming paper. Additional participants included former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Kennedy School Professor of the Practice of International Development Calestous Juma, Boston University Center for Global Health and Development Director Donald Thea, Harvard Business School Professor Kash Rangan, and Director of Harvard Global Health Institute Ashish Jha.