Intensified multilateral cooperation on global public goods for health: three opportunities for collective action

Through a number of collaborative projects with partners such as SEEK Development, UCSF’s Evidence to Policy Initiative, Open Consultants, and Spark Street Consulting, The Center for Policy Impact in Global Health has been studying the “global functions” of donor financing for health. By global functions, we mean collective action activities that address transnational health challenges. These activities can be categorized as (i) global public goods (GPGs), e.g., knowledge generation and sharing, or product development for neglected diseases; (ii) control of negative regional and global externalities, e.g., pandemic preparedness, and (iii) global health leadership and
stewardship, e.g., global convening to build consensus. In one study led by our colleague Marco Schäferhoff, we found that there is substantial underinvestment in this critical area: only one-fifth of all donor financing for health targets these important global functions.

In our conversations with policymakers, we have found that the term global public goods tends to be used as a shorthand for all three categories of activities. We’ve used the same shorthand in our latest work, which looks at the role of multilateral institutions in supporting GPGs for health. Such institutions are well placed to deliver support to this under-financed yet critically important agenda due to their global or regional mandates. We focused on the four multilaterals that provide the most development assistance for health (DAH): Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi); the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (the Global Fund); the World Bank, including the Global Financing Facility; and the World Health Organization (WHO), including the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. These multilaterals have each signaled their intention to engage more in support of GPGs for health individually as well as collectively in the recent Global Action Plan for healthy lives and well-being for all.

Given that these multilaterals have signaled their intention to provide greater support to GPGs and their desire for intensified cooperation, we wanted to answer the question: to what extent do GPGs for health represent shared priorities across the multilaterals and present opportunities for increased collective action? To do so, we reviewed strategy and financing documents and conducted 42 key informant interviews with senior leadership in these and other organizations. Our study found significant convergence across the multilaterals in support of three immediate opportunities for collective action to help address the global neglect of GPGs for health:

  1. Improving the production, quality, and harmonization of health data;
  2. Accelerating the development of and access to new health technologies in low-income countries middle-income countries; and,
  3. Strengthening global health security, particularly epidemic and pandemic preparedness.

Our goal is to highlight the common themes that emerged from speaking with these organizations to empower them to align efforts around shared collective action priorities. Click here to read the two page brief or here to see the full study.

Study Authors:

Duke CPIGH: Gavin Yamey and Kaci Kennedy

SEEK Development: Jessica Kraus, Hugo Petitjean, and Christina Schrade

UCSF Evidence to Policy Initiative: Sara Fewer and Naomi Beyeler

Spark Street Consulting: Nina Schwalbe