Governance for Global Health
David Ausserhofer
Main content

Health has steadily gained in importance on foreign policy and development agendas during the past 15 years, with a continuous growth in the number of actors, institutions and rule-systems relevant to global health governance. As a field of international cooperation, global health is therefore commonly portrayed as an exceptionally complex, competitive territory in which numerous actors struggle over authority and leadership.

The Research Group Governance for Global Health (WZB and Freie Universität Berlin) probes this picture by studying the relations among eight prominent health international organizations over time (Gavi, the Global Fund, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank,). It asks which practices of inter-organizational cooperation constitute health governance and argues that these tie individual organizations together in a field of shared activities and understandings. To account for historical change in health governance, the Group examines how norms that regulate what is "appropriate" and "good" governance shape relations amongst health IOs.

Methodologically, the Group combines qualitative, historical and discourse-analytical approaches with quantitative network analysis. It has compiled and analyzed an extensive data corpus consisting of all available annual reports by the mentioned organizations for the years 1970 - 2013. In addition, the Group is currently carrying out semi-structured interviews with global health professionals on how they conduct and experience cooperation across organizational boundaries.

The data corpus "Inter-Organizational Practices in Global Health, 1970-2013" is now available at:

The Group contributes to the study of regime complexes in health governance by putting forward a practice-based, historical approach. It also expands on recent theoretical approaches in International Relations norms research by focusing on norms on "good" governance and inquiring into their productive effects. Altogether, the Group’s research is yielding crucial findings on the emergence and the effects of meta-governance norms at the global level.