Thursday Thoughts: Political will?
Every Thursday (well, to be clear, probably not every Thursday, but many Thursdays) we're going to be posting a brief blog thinking about aspects of campaigning. This is the first post in that series. We're going to keep it short and snappy.
"We can end X...we just need more political will" is a common refrain in global health (or at least my part of it). It's always sat slightly uncomfortably with me since I said something very similar to an MP who replied: "It's not like I'm walking around lacking political will! Tell me what you need me to do."
Since then, I've come to the conclusion that focusing on political will might be a little bit of a red herring.
A lack of "political will" speaks of a lack of caring. So advocates search for arguments that will make politicians care: a more compelling statistic or emotive message and find, to our frustration, that it doesn't seem to change much.
My guess is that the reason is that politicians already care.
In fact, I've never met anyone, even some of the people you might think would be least sympathetic, who didn't think that 1.6 million people dying from a curable disease was acceptable. The issue isn't one of caring, the issue is that human and financial resources are finite, and most politicians/Ministers/governments have limited bandwidth.
We'll talk about what drives political prioritisation in a future post. For the moment, a framing around political prioritisation over political will is, I think, a better way to consider the problem because it shifts us from thinking about the extent to which a collection of individuals care to thinking about how to get the political system as a whole to move in the way we want it to. MO