Wisma Putra makes ‘health diplomacy’ a priority

The framework will outline what needs to be done and used between 3 to 5 years due to the dynamic nature of policy, says minister


MALAYSIA is looking at making several adjustments on foreign policy, with focus on health diplomacy within the next three to five years due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (picture) said Wisma Putra is working its foreign policy framework.

“This is so, we can focus on the pressing issues and challenges which will be used as a point of reference for Cabinet ministers for case use in decision making, he said after a webinar titled “Adapting to Covid-19: Malaysian Foreign Policy Priorities for the New World” by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) yesterday.

He said the framework will outline what needs to be done and used between three to five years from today due to the dynamic nature of policy.

“The framework is split into two components, the fundamentals and the priorities.

“Fundamentals are like principles, while priorities are the current focus, which is health diplomacy at the moment,” he said.

Currently, health diplomacy plays a large part in foreign politics. Saifuddin said health diplomacy is the practice which the government and non-state actors attempt to coordinate policy solutions to improve global health.

“The issue on the table is Covid-19 and due to its heavy impact, our approach has to be interdisciplinary and involve all sectors.

“We will need to bring in several disciplines, health, international affairs, trade policy, science and innovation, technology, and such,” he said.

To write policies on health diplomacy, he said one would have to look at vaccine-related importance of each country.

“In writing about the normal foreign policy framework, we talk about advanced and developing and poor countries.

“Under health diplomacy in the world of Covid-19, we are looking at donor countries, producing countries, recipient countries, in which while we are not the producing country, we are also donor countries to Bosnia, Palestine and so on,” he said.

While health diplomacy is not limited to vaccine diplomacy, it still plays a large part, he said.

“ISIS has done some good work, as we are on track to come up with the framework especially dealing with health diplomacy. We need to work around ways to adapt to the pandemic, as it is part of the foreign politics and policy,” added Saifuddin.

Currently, cybersecurity, digital technology and cultural diplomacy have all been considered in the topic of multilateralism discussed in the foreign policy framework.

Meanwhile, on Afghanistan, he said the Malaysian representative will be attending the United Nations’ conference tomorrow.

“We have not decided yet on our stance but we stand together with the people (of Afghanistan) and tomorrow we will be discussing the matter on recognition of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

He said while he cannot say more, discussions have been held with the Qatar Foreign Ministry.

“They are very much involved in the negotiation for the safety of Afghanistan people, and I will be communicating with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on what Malaysia can do and take part in,” he said.