The political economy of epidemics

The book edited by Bernardino Fantini, professor emeritus of the University of Geneva,“Epidémies et sociétes, passé, présent et futur” (with contributions in French and English) was published at the beginning of the year. The book also contains my contribution (in English) on the political economy of epidemics.

In my chapter, I propose an analysis of epidemics based on the social, political and economic determinants of old and new epidemics, including non-communicable diseases that have increased in an epidemic fashion.

The determinants of old and new epidemics, are deeply rooted in the way societies are structured. Populations’ aspiration to the highest attainable standard of health is in constant conflict with the dominant modes of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, which are driven by profit and unsustainable economic growth goals. The acceleration of globalization has modified the spatial and temporal spread of diseases, increasing the complexity of the analysis and adding challenges to possible responses to epidemics.

The paper analyses power and influence relations of various societal sectors, and their shaping of social and environmental determinants of epidemics. Related global govern- ance and public policy issues are equally presented. It argues that response to epidemics cannot be reduced to merely a biomedical or technical problem, seen in isolation and dealt with only through medical rescue processes and public health interventions. Up- stream causal processes need to be addressed. This requires questioning the hegemonic development model, and a combined global, national and local action to modify the drivers of human development, making populations’ health the priority of public policies in all sectors.

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Best wishes!

Christmas 2015 – New Year 2016

Dear friends,
my family has old maritime traditions. This year my father, last “sea captain” of his ancestry, set sail toward the infinite. He taught me “set your course toward far horizons and firmly keep the helmstock in that direction” and he taught me generosity; also his last words were: “Is there something I can do for you?”.
Today humanity is not navigating in calm waters, indeed it seems it has lost the compass. The mantra of economic growth, continuously pushes a dazed humanity indiscriminate consumption, independently from the real needs of individuals and communities. Humanity is slave of globalised economic interests and suffers the consequences of that “development” model: increasing inequalities in the distribution of resources, armed conflicts and social tensions, environmental degradation, dramatic climatic changes.
Interchanging ideas with my younger friends I share with them the need to have the chance to dream and design a different future. This is why I wish us all, not to resign to a world that is not as we wish it. Surely there is something that we may do for others, for humanity and the part of it which lives in every individual, for the Planet which belongs to all, and to which we all belong. Let’s imagine a different future and we will also be able to draw the course toward that horizon. Let’s firmly keep the ethical helmstock of our values and surely we’ll navigate in the right direction. Best wishes! Fair wind (and calm seas) in 2016!


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The donation potential of value-driven youth and non-formal education organizations: the case of the Scout Movement

goccia_di_sanguePaper presented by Eduardo Missoni at the ESTM residential course “Learning the best ways for caring fro blood donors”, European School of Transfusion Medicine, Milano, Italy, 3-5-12-2015.


“NAPLES, Italy – One azure morning in December, Laura Cozzolino arrived at her corner cafe in central Naples and ordered her usual: a dense espresso, which arrived steaming hot on the dark marble counter.
She lingered over the aroma, then knocked it back in two quick sips. But instead of paying for one coffee, she paid for two, leaving the receipt for the other -a caffè sospeso, or suspended coffee- with the bartender for a stranger to enjoy” (20).

The “caffè sospeso” (Italian for a suspended or unaccomplished coffee), is a Neapolitan tradition that boomed during World War II and has found a revival in recent years during hard economic times. According to that tradition in Naples someone who had experienced good luck would order a “caffè sospeso” paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there was a “sospeso” available would then be served a coffee for free. What motivates such a simple, anonymous act of generosity?
Open-source initiatives are another example of attitude toward donation. Open source initiatives appear in many forms, however two primary types can be identified: open source software and open source content: i.e. the creation of a body of knowledge, such as online discussion forums, consumers’ reviews, collaborative website tagging, online encyclopaedias, and others (18). Both open-source software and content projects are a collaborative endeavour of individuals, mostly young people, who volunteer their time, effort and skills to produce a product that is available to all. What is the vision they share leading to offer their time and expertise for free?
In London in 1909 a “Scout offered to show the way to a gentleman as his good turn for the day. When the stranger offered to pay for his trouble, of course the Scout said: No, thank you, sir. I am a Scout” (Baden-Powell (4)).
A surprising answer to the foreigner; in that situation he would have rather considered normal for the young boy to accept the proposed reward for the service. What does it mean “I am a Scout”?
The choice of generously donating, without an evident and immediate return characterises the three above referred experiences, and many more examples of similar individual and collective behaviours could be proposed.However, those practices contrast strongly with the characteristics of contemporary society which is predominantly based on exchange, and where giving is based on reciprocity -“do ut des”- and search for personal advantage, individualism and narcissistic consumption.
Indeed, the acceleration of the process of globalisation has pushed a process of cultural homogenisation, along with the adoption of a Western, neoliberal development model, based on the dogma of economic growth, competition and maximisation of profit, which in turn requires indefinite and unsustainable consumption of resources and production of waste.
Zygmunt Bauman’s “I consume, thus I am” well synthesises this contemporary way of recognising the existence of the human being. Indeed, the networks of human relations have been colonised by the devotion to consumption. The traditional sense of responsibility of ethical duty and moral concern for others, are transferred toward oneself, personal success and forecast of possible risks. “Responsible choices” today are associated with decisions that respond to the interests of the Self and answer to its wishes (5).

In contrast, increasingly young people spontaneously join to actively work for alternative structures and functioning of modern society, networking and organising around shared principles of cooperation and solidarity.
The Neapolitan tradition of the caffè sospeso inspires today many groups of people and lead to similar practice and more or less organised initiatives and solidarity networks in many countries around the world (26). Although the participation in the Open-source movement is often and individual choice, hundreds of organised groups have been established on that principle.

In the case of the Scout movement, today possibly the largest transnational youth-targeted non-formal education movement worldwide , its growth over more than hundred years is based on a well defined, values-driven educational method for “Good citizenship” (4) putting strong emphasis on helping others.

Several studies have explored the determinants of individual generosity and propensity to donation, and specifically blood donation, including the effect of people’s pro-social motivation.
However, the potential propensity to blood donation of groups of specifically organised around principles of solidarity and cooperation is still to be further explored. If we assume a high donation potential for people in this kind of organisations, the propensity to donate is probably much higher for young adults who spent many years of their childhood and adolescence in values-driven organisations whose objective is the education to social commitment, such as those belonging to the Scout Movement.
The objective of this paper is to preliminarily reflect on the donation potential of youth in value-driven non-formal education organisations, using the Scout Movement as a specific case.

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Scout con “S” (mayúscula) – en español

Foro Nacional de Jóvenes – Argentina 10 Octubre 2015

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Medical education for health

” A medical doctor who is able to integrate usefully in an urban or rural community, to take care of it, to understand its illnesses and defend its right to health. There is no graduate course nor specialization forming such a doctor”

Giulio Maccacaro, 1971

My presentation at the ONG 2.0 webinar on “Human resources for health. Which strategies for stronger health systems” hold on May 27th, 2015

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Degrowth and health: local action should be linked to global policies and governance for health

chiocciola_decrescitaVolume and increase of spending in the health sector contribute to economic growth, but do not consistently relate with better health. Instead, unsatisfactory health trends, health systems’ inefficiencies, and high costs are linked to the globalization of a growth society dominated by neoliberal economic ideas and policies of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization. A degrowth approach, understood as frame that connects diverse ideas, concepts, and proposals alternative to growth as a societal objective, can contribute to better health and a more efficient use of health systems. However, action for change of individual and collective behaviors alone is not enough to influence social determinants and counteract powerful and harmful market forces. The quality and characteristics of health policies need to be rethought, and public policies in all sectors should be formulated taking into consideration their impact on health. A paradigmatic shift toward a more caring, equitable, and sustainable degrowth society will require supportive policies at national level and citizens’ engagement at community level. Nevertheless, due to global interdependence and the unavoidable interactions between global forces and national systems, a deep rethinking of global health governance and its reformulation into global governance for health are essential. To support degrowth and health, a strong alliance between committed national and global leaderships, above all the World Health Organization, and a well-informed, transnationally interconnected, worldwide active civil society is essential to include and defend health objectives and priorities in all policies and at all levels, including through the regulation of global market forces.

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Panel on “Italian Foreign Aid and Development” at London School of Economics

The Italian Society’s 2015 inaugural Italian Forum on “Rethinking Italy at a Global Level” was held on  2-3 March 2015 in the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) Saw Swee Hock Theatre.  In that context I partcipated to the second panel on  Italian Foreign Aid and Development – How State and Civil Society Enhance Italy’s Soft Power in the Mediterranean Region: exploring Italy’s current and potential contributions to international development and their influence on Italy’s international role.

Due to late arrival of the plane to London I could not join the panel from the beginning, but made it for the conclusions and here is my intervention.

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Best Wishes! Felicidades!

(Texto en español más abajo)

Christmas 2014 – New Year 2015

Best wishes!

Dear friends,

according to the beautiful image proposed by Edgar Morin we all form the crew of the spaceship Earth, sharing a common planetary destiny. However, we do not seem to realize the fragility of our ship and the unsustainability of this consumerist growth society.

Environmental degradation and The increased frequency of natural disasters; old and new conflicts’ barbarities; increasing social inequalities, avoidable diseases, deaths and suffering of millions of people; corruption, abuses and prevarication, are mostly the product of a society promoting competition, profit maximization, and the commodification of every human relation.

For the spaceship to safely continue its galactic journey, my wishes are for everyone’s commitment for the Common Good and the collective interest. Let’s prevail cooperation over competition; quality over quantity; being over appearing. Let’s be thrifty in the use of natural resources and avoid wasting.
Let’s value culture, knowledge, and natural beauty, against every utilitarian logic.
Let’s defend, together and bravely, Life and the future of Mother Earth and each one of her inhabitants.

Best wishes!


– – – – – –

Navidad 2014 – Año Nuevo 2015

Queridas amigas y queridos amigos,

según la bella imagen de Edgar Morin formamos tod@s la tripulación  de la pequeña nave espacial Tierra y compartimos un destino planetario común. No obstante, parece que no nos damos cuenta de la fragilidad de la nave y de la no sustentabilidad de esta sociedad del crecimiento y del consumo.

El degrado del medioambiente y los desastres naturales que se verifican con creciente frecuencia; la barbarie de antiguos y nuevos conflictos; las crecientes desigualdades sociales, enfermedades, muertes y sufrimientos evitables de millones de personas; corrupción, abusos y prevaricación, son en máxima parte producto de una sociedad que promueve la competición, la maximización de la ganancia, y la mercantilización de toda relación humana.

Para que la pequeña nave pueda seguir tranquila su viaje sideral, mis deseos son que nos empeñemos para el bien común y el interés colectivo. Hagamos prevalecer la cooperación sobre la competición; la calidad sobre la cantidad; el ser sobre el aparecer. Utilicemos con parsimonia los recursos naturales y evitemos todo desperdicio. Valoricemos la cultura, el saber, las bellezas naturales, contra toda lógica utilitarista.

Defendemos, juntos y con valor, la Vida y el futuro de la Madre Tierra e di cadaun@ de sus habitantes.



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Youth, the challenge of transition to adulthood. Interview with the President of Indaba Network, Rhodes Forum 2014

Indaba Network,  “not just a social network, but THE network for social” want to join? Visit

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There is no future without memory. An appeal for democracy in the World Organization of the Scout Movement

Anexo .pdf también en español.

Annexe .pdf aussi en français

070729-WSJ_smallIn these days in Ljubljana, Slovenia, representative of National Scout Organizations are attending the 40th World Scout Conference. The Conference is the representative body of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and its highest decision-making body. It meets every three years. Many of the delegates have been participating in past editions but I am sure that for a good a number of younger participants this is the first time and I am not sure that they were informed about the events that led in 2007 (the “centennial year”) to the possibly deepest internal crisis in the whole history of that organization.

At the end of 2007  WOSM constitution was violated, and the World Scout Committee (the executive body of WOSM) was coerced to take the decision to dismiss the Secretary General that until that moment “enjoyed the solid support of the WSC during his tenure”.

Immediately after I launched “an appeal to all Scouts, to their national leaders, and to all those who believe in the values of legality and democracy, to reject this situation; to open a wide debate at all levels of WOSM allowing for the full knowledge of these regrettable facts; and to put every effort into restoring the respect for Scout values and the constitutional order of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. Through this appeal we may also protect the integrity and the credibility of World Scouting, and allow our response to this unfortunate demonstration to become a memorable educational experience in world citizenship for all people in all societies.”

Until today an open debate, with the participation of all interested parties, was not allowed in WOSM and every possible effort was put in place to hide the history, as well as individual and collective responsibilities that lead WOSM away from the Scout values that it should serve and promote.

This is why in these days, also through the social media, I have been inviting all the participants to the WSC to read what I wrote for all of them in 2007  but that was possibly hidden to most of them.  There is no future without memory.

The text follows of my open letter to: National Scout Organizations, Partners and Friends of Scouting (download pdf) :

Geneva, 4th of December 2007

To: National Scout Organizations, Partners and Friends of Scouting

Dear Sister and Brother Scouts and Friends,
I wish to share with all the National Scout Organizations (NSOs), as well as partner organizations and friends of scouts, some initial thoughts about the events that recently shook the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). I hope that sharing these thoughts in this way will allow for the recognition of the deceit that was aimed at discrediting the work of the constitutionally appointed World Scout Committee and the Secretary General. The deceitful words and actions were launched in an attempt to hide the responsibilities of those persons who occupy prominent leadership positions in Scout organizations, and who used their position to actively participate in destabilizing the entire Scout Movement.
As all NSOs were informed in circular N.34/2007 (the relevant sentences are quoted below), I fully assumed my institutional responsibility and despite the coup that was raised against WOSM I did not resign, as was demanded by the organisers of the coup.
With calm firmness I defended the principles and the unity of the Scout Movement, which I consider to be the very first mission of the World Scout Committee and of the Secretary General.
The facts of this matter are known. On the 17th of October, without any warning or reason, the current national leaders of the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) informed the World Scout Committee of their “irrevocable decision” to suspend the payments of their annual fee and of any other contribution to the World Scout Bureau including its regional offices “until the current Secretary General is replaced”. With a suspiciously simultaneous action, the Swedish Scouts and the chairman of the Board of the World Scout Foundation did the same, influencing other National Scout Organisations (NSOs) to follow them.
The attack was consciously and premeditatedly launched at the beginning of the financial year of WOSM (October to September), when the World Scout Bureau (WSB) operates solely on the basis of those principal sources (the registration fees of other NSOs normally start to flow in around January). As a consequence, the payment of the WSB’s November salaries for the central and regional offices personnel was already at risk.
The participants in the coup did not leave any alternatives to the World Scout Committee but to surrender to their demands and dismiss the Secretary General. The reactions of many other NSOs who remain loyal to the democratic principles of the Movement were of no consequence. Those NSOs had requested to the World Scout Committee to delay any decision without first allowing an open and fully informed debate on the issue. The grandchildren of the Founder of our Movement, Baden-Powell, also wrote a dramatic appeal to the Word Scout Committee to prevent that insane decision, but their effort was in vain.
In an extraordinary meeting in Cairo on November 12th, the World Scout Committee decided: “…with deep regret and taking into account the decision of Eduardo Missoni not to resign, to negotiate with him his departure as Secretary General”. This included immediate transfer of executive power, and external representative functions from 30 November 2007.
Nevertheless, in the statement announcing the dismissal of the Secretary General, the WSC “deplored in the strongest terms the unilateral actions and demands that have been made by BSA and the Swedish Guide and Scout Council requesting the resignation of the Secretary General which have placed the future of the World Organization in jeopardy”. The WSC also implicitly admitted that there were no valid motivations for the dismissal other than economic coercion. In fact, the statement further reads: ”Eduardo Missoni is a devoted Scout who has committed himself fully to WOSM in his role as Secretary General and has enjoyed the solid support of the WSC during his tenure”.
The action aimed at sacking the Secretary General had been planned since long before, including the occasion of the recent World Scout Jamboree. While 40,000 Scouts were renewing their Promise and their commitment to the Scout values, a few were plotting to subvert WOSM and force the Scout Movement into its deepest crisis since its foundation.
The same subversive persons met in Patthaya, Thailand, at the beginning of October to orchestrate the combined attack that they launched a few days later. First they wrote an “open letter”—a formula never seen before in WOSM —presenting in a vague or outright erroneous manner some concerns related to financial decisions of the World Scout Committee. As a result of the active campaign developed in the lobbies of the Asia-Pacific Scout Conference (October 18-23) by the initiators of the “Patthaya group”, a few other NSOs added their names to the “open letter”. They were completely unaware, however, that their adhesion to that group would be used to reinforce the subversive aim, as I learned from some of the leaders of those NSOs when they confirmed their support of the Secretary General.
As a component of their premeditated coup, many of the “concerns” that were cited by the current leaders of the BSA and of the Swedish NSO were used as mere pretexts to justify their illicit action against WOSM, where they suspended payments and then pointed for the head of the Secretary General.
It was also very unfortunate that the Chairman of the World Scout Committee ultimately did not send out the Committee’s answer to the “open letter” that he announced on October 18th and that was prepared as soon as the “open letter” was received. The Committee’s response clarified, one-by-one, each of the concerns posed by the BSA and WSF letters. Every World Scout Committee member but one approved the response to be distributed. Some of them insisted with the Chairman to do so immediately in order to stop the confusion, yet he did not send it. Why not? What caused the Chairman to act against the will of the Committee?
Against the majority of the World Scout Committee, the Chairman took heed to the pressure of a single dissenting member of the Committee who did not want to send that answer. It was the same Committee member that in his capacity of International Commissioner of the BSA had signed the letter requesting the replacement of the Secretary General. Serving as a World Scout Committee member but representing the interests of BSA was not only an open violation of WOSM’s Constitution (art. XII, 1), but also a failure to implement the Scout Promise and Scout Law that is expected of all Scouts and their leaders in the Movement.
It is probable that the coup would not have achieved its objective without the complicity of the chairman of the Board of the World Scout Foundation (WSF). The Chairman also suspended at once the annual grant of the Foundation to WOSM without having consulted the Foundation’s Board, so violating the rules established in the deed of that organization. In addition, the Chairman justified his move by pretending that he had some sort of “fiduciary responsibility” that allowed him to judge and even block the decisions of the World Scout Committee. The Foundation manages money collected in the name, with the systematic support of, and for the exclusive benefit of WOSM, and it was established decades ago, with the honorary chairmanship of HM the King of Sweden, specifically to defend WOSM from financial risks. This is why, besides being arbitrary, the action taken by the chairman of the WSF board is morally unacceptable.
Finally, it is also vital to restate the role of the World Scout Bureau and the Secretary General of WOSM within the operations of the Movement. According to the WOSM constitution (article XVI, 1), the World Scout Bureau (WSB) is the Secretariat of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and its functions include the implementation of decisions taken by WOSM’s governing organ (art. XVIII, 1), being the World Scout Conference (art. VII, 1), and of its executive organ, the World Scout Committee (art. XII, 1). Few, if any, of the possible justifications cited in the BSA and WSF letters could affect the Secretary General without at the same time involve the responsibility of the World Scout Committee. As the Committee indicated in WOSM Circular 34/2007 that announced the dismissal of the Secretary General, they remarked that he: “has enjoyed the solid support of the WSC during his tenure”.
Much more than how I am personally affected, the present situation leaves the Scout Movement facing an historical crossroad. Who governs WOSM? To what extent will WOSM be consistent with its current values in the future if we maintain the current course?
The decision taken by the World Scout Committee under the economic coercion of a wealthy minority paves the way for the possibility that the policies and orientations of WOSM may be determined from now on by the threats of those who have strength to force their will into place. If this is accepted by the WOSM community, any future Secretary General will have no alternative but simply submit to the will of any overzealous aggressor.
BP once stated: “We are a Movement, not an organisation. We work through ‘love and legislation’.” I believe it is up to all of us to reaffirm BP’s stance and avoid allowing arrogance and blatant disregard for agreed rules to become the new way of governing WOSM.
Crisis may be the perfect opportunity for change and improvement. Thus, I hereby launch an appeal to all Scouts, to their national leaders, and to all those who believe in the values of legality and democracy, to reject this situation; to open a wide debate at all levels of WOSM allowing for the full knowledge of these regrettable facts; and to put every effort into restoring the respect for Scout values and the constitutional order of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. Through this appeal we may also protect the integrity and the credibility of World Scouting, and allow our response to this unfortunate demonstration to become a memorable educational experience in world citizenship for all people in all societies.
On my side, I will continue to do my best to contribute to a Scout Movement that is loyal to the ideals of its founder; a Movement, that through the education of new generations to the values of the Scout Promise and Law, is capable of acting as a social force that contributes to building a culture of peace and of creating a better world.
Let me finally take this opportunity to whole-heartedly thank all those in Scouting, as well as those in partner organizations and institutions, those working at local, national, regional and world levels, those who dared to share their feelings joy and sadness, their projects and dreams, their frustrations and successes, their leisure and labor, and those who simply clasped my hand in a sign of sincere friendship and brotherhood. Your actions and gestures have changed my life for the better, and they will not be forgotten.
Let’s hope we will have more to share together as the dialogue unfolds. We have much work to do for our Movement!

Your friend and brother Scout,
Eduardo Missoni



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