Global Health Overview

Public-private partnerships are now ubiquitous in global health, as stakeholders from private, for-profit and public sectors come together to address the world’s most pressing development challenges. This level of partnership has not always existed.

A shifting configuration of power at the end of the Cold War, globalization and the launch of the internet ushered in a new era of increased popular awareness of and participation in world affairs. With the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor, corporations increasingly came under fire for their emphasis on opening new markets without improving economic status. The clamor of discontent had reached a feverish pitch by the time the UN sat down to draft the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) —aimed at improving the social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries by 2015. Shortly after the establishment of the MDGs, the international community recognized that their hope of catalyzing widespread economic development could only be realized with the cooperation of the private sector. The business world also recognized that participating in humanitarian efforts could improve both their reputation in the marketplace and the stability of the emerging economies on which they were dependent. This shift in worldviews led to a massive corporate social responsibility initiative, the UN Global Compact, which formalized private sector commitments to aligning business practices with ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption.

Interest in global health also skyrocketed, bringing with it a vast array of new funds, actors and vehicles for delivering international aid. A desire to harness the resources and know-how of the private sector has led to the creation of product development partnerships, creative public-private financing mechanisms, implementation partnerships, and even partnerships of partnerships, evident by the need for coordination among the spectrum of actors on the ground. Each of these partnership models proposes new and exciting solutions to global problems, and yet each is saddled with unique challenges related to the alignment of corporate and social motivations and needs.

 Background Resources

UN Global Compact

Browse the United Nations Global Compact website that asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption.

Millennium Development Goals

Browse the website for the eight Millennium Development Goals, mapping a blueprint for global development gains by 2015, set by the United Nations Millennium Declaration & adopted by the General Assembly in September 2000.

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