Lund Debate examines migration, global public health

This year’s Lund Critical Debate, “Migration in the Age of Pandemics,” will explore ways to promote the best public health outcomes worldwide and protect human rights, as waves of people cross national borders amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, in partnership with Global Cornell’s Migrations initiative and the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs, the event will be held virtually on Feb. 16 at 9:30 a.m.; registration is required.

With a focus on the intersection of mobility, human rights and public health, this year’s Lund Critical Debate brings together Zsuzsanna Jakab, one of the world’s leading public health policymakers at the World Health Organization (WHO), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Their conversation will probe geopolitical, epidemiological and humanitarian dimensions of this critical topic.

Zsuzsanna Jakab

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Moderating the debate will be Gunisha Kaur, co-leader of Einaudi’s Migrations research team and an anesthesiologist specializing in human rights research at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The event presents a yearly opportunity to examine pressing global issues from multiple vantage points, said Rachel Beatty Riedl, the Einaudi Center’s director and John S. Knight Professor of International Studies and professor of government in the College of Arts and Sciences. This year’s dialogue between health and migration policy experts aims to foster an integrated approach to protecting the right to health without discrimination.

“Our world faces urgent questions about how to respond to the pandemic – to limit death and severe sickness, as well as economic and social costs. A common practice has been to restrict mobility and tighten border regimes,” Riedl said. “Restrictive measures have often hampered coordinated, consistent public health measures that address the needs of refugees and migrants.”

Jakab was appointed as WHO’s deputy director-general in 2019, after serving as WHO’s regional director for Europe since 2010. She has held numerous national and international public health policy positions, including serving as founding director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, Sweden.

During his time representing the state of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, Menendez has helped pass key health care legislation, including the Senate’s COVID relief packages. As an active leader in immigration reform, Menendez commissioned a foreign relations committee investigation that culminated in his 2020 report, “Global Forced Migration: The Political Crisis of Our Time.”

Created through the generosity of Judith Lund Biggs ’57, the Einaudi Center’s annual Lund Critical Debate gathers noted experts in international affairs to deliberate on pressing issues in world news and policy. The conversation around migration in the age of pandemics will continue throughout the semester, with events taking shape in March to give students the opportunity to talk with staffers from WHO and Menendez’s office.

Priya Pradhan ’22 is senior writing intern for Global Cornell.

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Becka Bowyer