Humanitarian Health Action

Purpose statements for panels and sessions

WHO Conference on the Health Aspects of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia

Panel 2.17: Private sector partnerships for health action in crises

- Contribution from Philip Hedger -

The Tsunami has demonstrated an unusual level – and type - of private sector engagement and partnership with public actors. Disasters which have a severe impact on health and environment have occurred before and unfortunately will happen again. So what impelled the private sector and the public sector to act in less traditional ways and to some extent create mutual surprise at the power of combined resources and expertise? What aspects of the Tsunami experiences have benefited from private sector resources – defined as the provision of cash, products, people and minds. Where have those resources been more effective – in the immediate / acute phase or the ongoing recovery phase? How can we ensure that public private partnering in disaster situations create synergy and not merely additive? What mechanisms can the public sector integrate into a new way of proceeding that will serve to help pull private sector resources through the entire continuum of acute response, recovery and rehabilitation? The purpose of the session therefore includes a multisectoral look at the strategic benefits to key disaster recovery outcomes of private sector engagement and specifically what the resources are, how they can be engaged in a preplanned, systematic and predictable manner – and how the public sector – especially the UN and its agencies - can access it in a timely and substantial manner. This session is not therefore intended to be exclusively a “show and tell” – but some thoughtful – maybe provocative - reflections based on hard experience in the Tsunami aftermath – of honest lessons learned as the private sector has worked with the public sector in a fairly immediate and mostly unplanned way. What are the hard and soft barriers we need to address to make future engagement bigger, better, more effective and available more quickly? What standing mechanisms – extant or new – can be utilized to effect this set of objectives? Let‘s define what key parameters of success should be and make it clear to all parties – so that there is an equal focus on outcomes and results as on inputs. The private sector offers key skill sets across a range of critical needs in time of disaster – and also offers an additional set of robust private sector management skills – an additional dimension which can be harnessed to keen effect. Again how can these dimensions and tools be most effectively employed along the continuum of post disaster work – from acute to eventual recovery.