Importance of Global Health Diplomacy in COVID-19 Situation


In the current status quo, the importance of global health diplomacy is paramount. It means dual goals of improving health while strengthening relations among nations. In such a worldwide crisis during the pandemic of COVID-19, enhancement of international co-operation will result in faster and more efficient utilization of our available resources. By taking into account foreign policy, global health diplomacy will save us from another Great Depression by ensuring economic development, prioritize social justice, and strengthen national security. This article talks about how a combination of government and non-state actors will advocate for health in national policy forums and help us to win our battle against the life-threatening COVID-19. Its importance is inevitable because when millions of dollars are being funded in any sector, it becomes a concern of secretariats. In this era, health is no longer confined to a decision of the medical sector only. It is a unified effort of every sector especially when it comes to defeating the deadly pandemic COVID-19. There needs to be accountability over every decision and this is where global health diplomacy plays its role.


What is Global Health Diplomacy?

Global Health Diplomacy refers to the multi-level and multi-actor negotiation processes that shape and manage the global policy environment for health.

Globalization of public health began between 1851-1951 when merchants contributed to the spread of infectious disease and to the international trade of opium and alcohol. The pivotal point of global health diplomacy was when ILO (International Labour Organization) insisted the government to take into account the opinions of union leaders and other non-state actors for greater social and economic advancement. Global health diplomacy gained tremendous momentum recently through the negotiations between the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the International Health Regulations and during the pandemic of COVID-19 and bubonic plague.

Global health diplomacy has linked health to foreign policy by the following methodology:

1)Economic aspect covering the impact of health on development

2) Social justice with health as a social value and human right, linked to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, access to medicines and primary health care and calls on high-income countries to invest in global health initiatives

3) Security covering fear of global pandemics, bioterrorism, humanitarian conflicts, and natural disaster [1]


Global Health Diplomacy can be categorized in three ways:

1) Core diplomacy- among nations

2) Multistakeholderdiplomacy- among nations and non-state actors, not necessarily being about a complete agreement

3) Informal diplomacy- among country officials, non-government organizations, private sector companies, and the public


How Global Health Diplomacy helps countries to cope with the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak?

Diplomatic funding in COVID-19 research through organizations like Global Funding, GAVI alliance, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have created numerous advantages:

1) Budget flexibility of resources

Using domestic financing and external financing from the World Bank Group’s $14 billion COVID-19 Fast Track Facility and reallocations from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, Malaria GAVI, and Global Financing Facility grants for service delivery. [2]

2) Decrease interagency tension

By allowing every sector’s opinion, it reduces conflict and provides a better chance of reaching a fair decision.

3) Promote economic stimulus and address rising unemployment

E.g. Ford Foundation by Darren Walker for the city Detroit

If the economic capacity is lagging behind, citizens would automatically cut down expenses on healthcare leading to a breakdown in the handling of the pandemic.

4) Increase the flexibility of migrant workers

Migrant workers contribute to remittance which stimulates local economic activity.

5) Halt temporary evictions in COVID

E.g. Eviction ban on tenants to pay their rent to landlords to be extended in England; the Government to provide $1000 Canadian dollars to those who have rented over 30% of their income.


One of the concerns of Bangladesh is to maintain its status as a country that is on its way to SDG (Sustained Development Goal). Its criteria are as follows:

 importance of Global Health Diplomacy

Importance of ensuring social justice in COVID-19

Social justice is the uniform distribution of wealth and a reduction of unjustified privileges. Global health diplomacy plays the role of the buffer by preventing any sort of discrimination in terms of who gets to avail the essential medicines, vaccines, and safe water and sanitation especially at times of any natural disaster that can be jeopardized on a large scale.

Social justice means accessibility to:

1) Health facilities and essential medicines

High-income countries must not monopolize the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines. During the 2009 influenza A/ H1N1 pandemic, rich countries negotiated large advance orders for the vaccine, crowding out poor people. [3]

The President of the United States asked the medical supply firm 3M to stop selling N95 respirators to Canada and Latin American markets by involving the Defense Production Act in order to focus on domestic distribution. [4]

One of the devastating accidents was in Lebanon due to an explosive compound of nitrate stored in shipyards due to a lack of papers for its discharge officially. This led to a devastating effect with an intensity comparable to Hiroshima Nagasaki. At such times when Lebanon was reaching its peak in the curve of COVID-19, another disaster was too much to handle singlehandedly by the Lebanese government. Countries all over the world offered medical supplies. Such international ties are an example of humanity and prosperity as a whole.


2) Shelter, safe water, and sanitation.

E.g. ‘Amphan’ cyclone had devastating effects on pure water supply in South-east Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan during 2020 COVID-19. Efforts to locate flood-affected areas and preplanning can reduce the detrimental effects of environmental disasters and hence people will panic less. This will reduce community transmission of COVID-19 as we know the more the close proximity of people, the more risk of people getting affected by droplet infection of COVID-19.


Enhancing national security through global health diplomacy

Crossing borders can increase the risk of transmission of communicable diseases like COVID-19. However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) sees that the global losses for the air travel transport industry could be over $113 billion dollars due to travel restrictions during the pandemic. [5]

Therefore, negotiations are essentially taken place among organizations like WTO (World Trade Organization), WHO (World Health Organization), TRIPS (Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights), Association of South-east Asian Nations, OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), G8, G20, G77.

One of the significant advantages as a result of these international affairs of Global Health Diplomacy is that on March 16, 2020, the G7 committed to supporting the launch of joint research projects for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines [6] following the declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO on Jan 30, 2020. [7]

TRIPS agreement adopted by WTO in 1995 allows states to issue compulsory licenses in the face of public health crises. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) memorandum of understanding (MOU) provide an advantage over formal treaties e.g. they can be confidential, put into effect more quickly and easily modified. [8]

Global Health Diplomacy has helped in maintaining a balance in terms of equal distribution of medicines with respect to need and avoid being biased towards the privileged first world countries alone. It has successfully dealt with Ebola, measles, influenza, Spanish flu, polio, and HIV/AIDS in the past and is still working at its maximum to make a mark in COVID-19 and bring harmony to everyone. It has reduced any sort of discrepancy during vaccine trials and made it mandatory for vaccines to complete its trials up to clinical stage three before being commercialized as a proven safe vaccine. From international travel bans to complete lockdown, global health diplomacy left no stone unturned in its efforts to flatten out the COVID curves to a plateau. The best example of a country to have successfully dealt with COVID is New Zealand with zero recorded community transmission so far. Global health diplomacy is therefore the best strategy for us to combat COVID-19.




In this era, health has become impossible to be tackled by the medical sector alone. At times of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to utilize our resources in the best possible manner and tactfully. Funding on the most promising research, prevention of discrimination between high and low-income countries on the availability of vaccines, conducting fair and safe research on vaccine trials, international relations in terms of maintaining the transparency of data of new cases and community transmission, to enforce lockdown and at the same time taking into account that the livelihoods of everyone are stable through economic incentives, banning international flights for adequate time and maintain strict protocols of quarantine and social distancing measures for those who come in close contact are some of the endless aspects where global health diplomacy is successfully contributing. Hence we can rightfully conclude that alone we are strong but together through global health diplomacy, we are stronger.




medical student of Ibrahim Medical College(BIRDEM), Bangladesh.

[email protected]



[1]Global health in foreign policy—and foreign policy in health? Evidence from the BRICS

[2]World Bank Group Increases COVID-19 Response to $14 Billion To Help Sustain Economies, Protect Jobs
Date: March 17, 2020
Date accessed: March 26, 2020

[3]Ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines
Negotiating equitable access to influenza vaccines: global health diplomacy and the controversies surrounding avian influenza H5N1 and pandemic influenza H1N1.
PLoS Med. 2010; 7e1000247

[4]Coronavirus: Trump asks medical supply firm 3M to stop selling N95 respirators to Canada. Available at: Accessed 4 April 2020.

[5]International Air transport Association. IATA Updates COVID-19 Financial Impacts -Relief Measures Needed 2020. Available at: Accessed 13 Mar 2020.
Google Scholar

[6]The White House
G7 leaders’ statement.
Date: March 16, 2020
Date accessed: March 23, 2020

World Health Organization
WHO. WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 March 11, 2020. Available at: Accessed 13 Mar 2020

[8]Defining Health Diplomacy: Changing Demands in the Era of Globalization


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