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Coalition Building: international, multi-sectoral, and across classes

The overall level of health in a community or nation or in the world as a whole is a good indicator of its degree of equity and social justice. For this reason, health can be a good entry point in the struggle for fairer, more sustainable alternatives.

I would like to emphasize again that one of the key elements in creating a healthier world comes down to the healing of old wounds and the building of bridges. The Achilles heel of the Left and of progressive social movements in general has been infighting and division within the ranks. The social vision of the Left, in a nut-shell, is to construct a society based on equal opportunities and human dignity for all. If we are to revive that vision, we must learn to respect our differences and embrace what we have in common.

To successfully confront and transform the elitist global order, it is essential to reach across national boundaries to build international coalitions. Equally essential is to build cross-sectoral solidarity. To this end, one of the strategic goals of the People's Health Assembly has been to bring together activists and progressives, not just from the health sector, but from all the various sectors that affect health that is, from virtually every sector.

This PHA event in Bangladesh is a big step forward toward building multi-sectoral solidarity. But we still have a long way to go. In the follow-up activities of the PHA, it is essential for us to build a pragmatic coalition among progressives in the three key sectors of Health, Environment, and Economics. New, more balanced and sustainable alternatives that bridge these three sectors are essential to achieving a healthy way forward.

Also important to coalition building is reaching across class barriers, at least where this is possible without sacrificing integrity. We need to include concerned persons and groups from every level of the social spectrum. True, the "voiceless poor" must have a much stronger say in the decisions and policies that affect their lives. But it is also important to reach out to those in the middle and upper classes who are becoming increasingly worried about the unconscionable inequities of the dominant social order.

Some of the world's wealthiest financial wizards and top economists -- ranging from billionaire George Soros to Herman Daly, Davison Budhoo and Joseph Stiglitz, all former high-ranking economists of the World Bank or IMF -- have begun to question the prevailing economic ideology based on "growth at all costs." They, too, are looking for fairer, more sustainable alternatives.

In spite of the roll-back of social progress and the claim that, with the globalization of corporate rule, "history has come to an end," we may in fact be on the doorstep of a new age of enlightenment. Little by little, more and more people are beginning to realize that all life is interconnected. The health of each of us depends upon the health of all of us and upon the health of the planet that we are guests upon.

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