All in the words

November 19, 2008

Sitting in on the ministerial discussions reviewing the draft Bamako Call to Action, I was struck by just what a delicate process crafting such a document is. Giving ministers of health and science and technology the opportunity to comment on each version of the document is surely a laborious process but a necessary one if the recommendations are to be acted upon.

Semantics is the key issue, with ministers asking for specific words to be put back in or removed, or pointing out where certain words could be interpreted differently; such as whether the word “efficiencies” means making health systems more effective, or cutting staff.

To someone with little experience of ministerial processes like myself, this can seem petty or pedantic. But these are the words that will hopefully be taken back to countries and acted upon the time this takes is irrelevant if it means that everyone understands the intended meaning and ultimate aims.

These are the words that could and should have real-world effects, and choosing them is quite rightly a careful process.

Katherine Nightingale, SciDev.Net

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