Health Diplomacy in the Context of South American Integration

By March 17, 2019 August 29th, 2019 Solution


The term ‘global health diplomacy’ aims to capture the multi-level and multi-actor negotiation that shapes and manages the global policy environment for health. In this regard, officials who work in the international relations area of Ministries of Health act as diplomats, representing their countries at multilateral fora in the health area. Despite their practical experience, many of them lack theoretical knowledge on health diplomacy and health governance. The course was planned to contribute to consolidating their capacities in health diplomacy and to support the development of projects aimed at strengthening regional integration in South America.

Towards a Solution

The South American Institute of Government in Health (ISAGS) is a public, intergovernmental organization linked to the Health Council of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). As a centre for high-level studies and public policy debate, its actions contribute to the development of governance and leadership in health in the countries of South America.

To achieve its objectives, ISAGS identifies needs, develops programmes and supports the training of human resources and strategic leadership in the health area, in coordination with national and international organizations.

To address the above challenge, ISAGS developed the virtual course, Health Diplomacy in the Context of South American integration, jointly with the Centre for International Relations of the Osvaldo Cruz Foundation (CRIS/FIOCRUZ) of Brazil and the Latin American University for Social Sciences (FLACSO Argentina) of Argentina. This course was proposed within the framework of the 2017 ISAGS annual operating plan, in response to a request from the Network of International Health Offices of UNASUR (REDSSUR ORIS).

The objectives of the course were to contribute to strengthening the capacities of the technical teams of the international relations offices of the Ministries of Health of UNASUR Member Countries and to convey the relevance of these offices as a tool of international relations in health. In addition, the course helped to validate ISAGS as a facilitator of health diplomacy in the region. In addition to technical capacity-building, the course helped to strengthen the construction of a South American identity based on a vision of the universal right to health.

The course methodology included: 21 recorded videos, released every week; live sessions at the end of each module (groups in Spanish and in English); a virtual forum; the production of two individual essays; and a final group project, which should be a feasible cooperation project involving at least four countries and ISAGS. ISAGS used the Moodle platform, adapted according to the needs of this course. Participant selection was at the discretion of each international relations office of the 12 South American Ministries of Health. Therefore, each Minister sent ISAGS a list of its five staff members who would take part in the course; accordingly, the participants ranged from technical assistants to directors and vice-ministers.

The course is an example of working to achieve SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development), target 17.16 (Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development), complemented by multi- stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources to support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries, in particular developing ones.

Sixty people from the Ministries of Health and of Foreign Affairs of 12 countries registered for the course. The participants presented 10 final projects, including proposals for technical cooperation among countries in various health areas, migration, drug procurement, influenza surveillance, food labelling, social inclusion, ethnicity, rational use of medicines, health along the borders, health promotion and access to high priced medicines. Some countries, together with ISAGS, the Andean Health Organization (Organismo Andino de Salud ? Convenio Hipólito Unanue, ORAS-CONHU) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), are evaluating the feasibility of implementing one of the projects, which proposes the creation of a regional observatory on migration and health.

The initiative is replicable, since all videos recorded are available for interested groups through ISAGS’website. ISAGS is working on a shorter version of the course to be broadcast online.

Countries/Regions involved: Argentina, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Supported by: ISAGS-UNASUR, Centre for International Relations in Health of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (CRIS/ FIOCUZ) of Brazil and Latin American University of Social Sciences of Argentina (FLACSO Argentina)

Implementing entities: ISAGS-UNASUR, Centre for International Relations in Health of Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (CRIS/ FIOCUZ), and Latin American University of Social Sciences of Argentina (FLACSO Argentina)

Project status: Completed

Project period: August-December 2017

URL of the practice:


Ms. Carina Vance, Executive Director, ISAGS-UNASUR

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