A big round of applause to the EV4GH venture – all the facilitators, partners and EVs – who, despite the challenges of travel and the COVID-19 induced weariness, put together a fantastic face-to-face venture at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, Dubai. The 6-day long face-to-face venture is ongoing and will culminate with a Webinar on Saturday, 27th November 2021. Do register here to attend the EV4GH closing webinar! (And no, Saturdays are no excuse for not showing up 😊.) 

2020 was supposed to be a big year, the year EV4GH celebrated its 10th anniversary with much fanfare and fuss. And what a journey it was indeed, from its first edition in 2010, Montreux, to its seventh in 2020 in Dubai. No small feat, and indeed an occasion for celebration. But 2020 was the year that was and wasn’t. Still, despite the challenges of a pandemic, the 2020 EV face-to-face venture is now taking place in Dubai. In November 2021, that is 😊. Fourteen new Emerging Voices from around the world travelled to Dubai this week to attend the EV4GH 2020 edition in person. Some joined remotely across time differences and hemispheres. Some undertook tedious journeys of over 30 hours in masks, navigating not just the usual security and immigration checks but multiple COVID-19 tests as well. A few couldn’t make it for various reasons, not the least the near-impossible travel challenges during the pandemic. The EV Governance board (well, part of it, “Covid oblige”) arrived two days before to convene on governance matters and prepare for the venture ahead (Colombia 2022). 

Writing this on Wednesday, it is now day 3 of the five-day venture. The EVs are enjoying and experiencing the tremendous hospitality and support offered by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, Dubai, to the EV venture. Day one gently eased the EVs into the venture with ice-breaking activities, which helped them get to know each other through the fog of jet lag. A welcome dinner in the desert, complete with camels and fire dancing, gave them a taste of what the country had to offer. 

A visit to the local health services is always an integral part of the EV4GH F2F experience. On Tuesday, the EVs took a trip to the International Humanitarian City (IHC) – the largest humanitarian hub of the world, which left them quite impressed! One of the key features of the IHC, the EVs noted, was its strategic location with access to the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They were struck by the systems in place to manage logistics, the dashboard that very clearly showed their growth, and the increase in the budget for health following the emergence of COVID-19.  

Also, today (Wednesday), a favourite EV role-play session is taking place to help EVs navigate potential challenges of local health systems and find solutions to navigate them. The EVs have participated in two Big Talks already and more are scheduled. It is really nice to meet the EVs face to face now, and to reconnect with EV Alumni, now further in their career & journey (and featuring in various sessions, as experts and role models for the new EVs!).  This batch has also witnessed other types of transition, including a new EV Secretariat.

The new EVs, already coined ‘the pandemic cohort’ on social media, have another three days of the venture left and time is flying by faster than they like. But they are indeed a “special” batch as they got to celebrate successfully navigating travel during a pandemic and surviving multiple swabs up their nostrils. It has been interesting to learn about the unfortunate inequities which exist even in access to tests, vaccines and resources, nearly two years now into a pandemic – but this is the reason why it’s critical to engage with young and emerging voices. Nothing can quite compare getting to engage with people one on one.  Not all of us managed to make it to Dubai to meet in person, unfortunately. Some chose not to travel, while others faced country-specific travel restrictions.

Let us end with a new EV4GH motto for pandemic and planetary health times: “Let the ‘weary dinosaurs henceforth rest at home in pandemic times, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzoom in, sharing their wisdom online. The young should get the chance to travel to global HSR symposia and other global health events!”  😊 

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