The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries, most of which were former British colonies. However, this shared history has produced very different legacies, and migration of health care workers from the poorer to the richer members is one expression of this.
Over the last decade or so, this became a serious problem for some Commonwealth countries, particularly small island states, which would sometimes lose a whole group of professionals at the same time, having devoted scarce public resources to training them.
In the context of the global shortage of health care workers — a deficit the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates at 4.3 million — this has had what the Commonwealth Secretariat describes as a “devastating impact on healthcare systems in many developing countries already weakened by the burden of HIV/AIDS”.
So the Commonwealth set up a Working Party and commissioned Public World to help facilitate and inform discussions leading to a Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Workers, and to produce a Companion Document.
The Commonwealth Secretariat states: “The Code is intended to discourage targeted recruitment of health workers especially from vulnerable, countries experiencing shortages. It also safeguards the rights of recruits and conditions of employment in recruiting countries. This pioneering work by the Commonwealth Secretariat is informing the development of a global ethical code being drafted by WHO.”