Concept and birth of the Society
The First World Congress on Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health (MERH2018) was held in Edinburgh in May 2018. This landmark event attracted more than 700 participants from over 50 countries. It brought together people from many disciplines with the aim of sharing information and ideas on the complex health issues related to migration, ethnicity and racism. The negative health experiences of refugees, indigenous minorities and marginalised groups such as the Roma were given special attention.
The Congress concluded with the Edinburgh Declaration. This recognised the fundamental and historically beneficial nature of human migration but highlighted the numerous actual and potential disadvantages to health facing migrants and ethnic minorities throughout the world today. It stated that an interdisciplinary approach is essential for understanding and tackling the consequent inequities and ensuring sound ethical foundations for actions and subsequent policies.
One of the Declaration’s recommendations was to establish a Global Society, a proposal put forward by Prof Raj Bhopal, the MERH2018 chair. He pointed out that a number of existing groups already address some issues, e.g. migrant health or the health of indigenous minorities; or a range of issues in one part of the world, e.g. Europe or North America; or a range of disciplines e.g. social sciences, clinical medicine or health policy. However, there was none providing a global forum for all these perspectives and agencies. The core concept behind the Global Society was thus to foster the constructive interaction between the many participants in this complex field across the world, by sharing research and other reliable information and promoting policies and practices that can protect and improve health. After a lively debate, the proposal received near unanimous support.
Later in 2018, a planning committee was set up, led by Prof Bernadette Kumar, the president of the EUPHA Migrant and Ethnic Minority Section. Its first tasks were to ensure global representation, convert the concept of a Global Society into a workable action plan and agree on the Society’s structure and way of working. The EUPHA office acted as the interim secretariat and the remaining funds from MERH2018 were made available to the committee.
By mid-2020, the Society’s aims, values and development plan had been agreed. Given the need to have officially recognised corporate status and sound management, the committee decided to register the Society as a charitable organisation in Scotland (UK), and to obtain support from In Conference, the experienced conference and association management company which had successfully managed the 2018 Congress. The Society was officially launched at an online conference on 12 October 2020. Its website was built in early 2021 and membership opened on May 6, 2021.
The Global Society was registered on 26 July 2021 as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) No SC051149. It is subject to United Kingdom legislation under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, requiring it to fulfil its charitable purposes and giving it the powers to do so in appropriate ways, including by raising and using funds. The Society is led by a Board of Trustees, and governed according to an agreed constitution and related policies. From 2022, the Board will be elected by the Society’s members and is supported by an International Advisory Council and other committees.