The Dubrovnik Pledge, 2001: Rebuilding peace and stability
First Ministerial Forum of the South Eastern Europe in Dubrovnik, in 2001 has endorsed The Dubrovnik Pledge. It was a commitment to meeting the health needs of vulnerable populations, especially important on the offset of political unrests in SEE. The health ministers stressed: “accept the challenge to play a key role in strengthening the fundamental human rights of our societies and our vulnerable populations and individuals within them to effective healthcare, social well-being and human development, in line with the principles of the World Health Organization and the Council of Europe” (the Dubrovnik pledge, 2001). A new mechanism was created to ensure implementation of the pledge and regional projects within its framework: the SEEHN. The member states took the first steps towards setting up regional health agenda in SEE. Overall, the Dubrovnik Pledge and the creation of the SEEHN constituted the region’s first-ever cross-border political alliance in health and is recognized as a huge political victory for peace and cooperation and made health the cornerstone of the Stability Pact’s Social Cohesion Initiative. This chapter of the sub-regional development was deducted to post-conflict healing and rebuilding trust, thus the most prominent and the first project that the SEEHN begun with was the project on strengthening mental health in the (post crises) community.
Skopje Pledge (2005): Public health as a tool for economic development
The aspirations and goals of the Dubrovnik pledge were subsequently reaffirmed by the Second Health Ministers’ Forum on Health and Economic Development in South-eastern Europe in the 21st-century (2005). The Forum culminated in the issuing of the Skopje Pledge, which confirmed the commitment of the governments of the nine member states to demonstrate the economic potential of health as a means to increase productivity and decrease public expenditure on illness and to assume full responsibility for regional cooperation through further work in technical areas to serve this goal (food safety, blood safety, accreditation of healthcare facilities, human resources for health, strengthening public health services).
In between the two Forums (2005 and 2011) the process of establishing regional ownership made a series of important steps towards developing regional health governance structures:
• Signing of the major political document of the SEEHN in 2008: Memorandum of Understanding on the Future of the South-eastern Europe Health Network in the framework of the South East European Co-operation Process (2008 and beyond)
• Establishing of the regional secretariat and of the Regional Health Development Centers that has marked the transfer of ownership process. Those are permanent legacy of the projects conducted under the SEEHN during the past years, as they complete the transformation of the technical projects into long-term programs of regional cooperation in public health.
• The first legally binding document has been signed in 2010, the Host Agreement on the Arrangements on the Seat of the Secretariat of the SEEHN.
Banja Luka Ministerial Forum 2011 has endorsed Banja Luka Pledge that aims to fostering a decade of stable cooperation process in SEE, focusing SEEHN further action on all of a government action for health and through health towards full European integration and further expanding partnerships in public health. The SEEHN Strategy for 2011-2015 has been set up.
SEEHN has continued to create s a strong alliance for strengthening public health, signing the Memorandum of Understandings with the mayor partners.
SEEHN has decided to open the process for enlargement beyond the political, historical and geographical boundaries of its establishment, and thus, amended its political and legal documents and accepted Israeli application for full membership and Israel as its tenth member state at the Forum.