Sara Davis

Sara Leila Margaret DAVIS

Special Advisor, Strategy and Partnerships, Global Health Centre
Areas of expertise
  • Human rights
  • Civil society
  • Global health finance
  • Sexual violence
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • China


Meg Davis has twenty years’ experience in anthropology, health and human rights as a scholar and practitioner.

She earned her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught BA courses on China, and held postdoctoral fellowships at Yale University and UCLA. Her book, Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China’s Southwest Borders (Columbia University Press 2005), was based on ethnographic fieldwork in Yunnan and Myanmar.

As a researcher at Human Rights Watch and, later, founding executive director of Asia Catalyst, she worked in partnership with dozens of community-based organisations on human rights training, research and advocacy. She was the first senior advisor on human rights at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, where she led early work to operationalise the Fund’s strategic objective on human rights. She now works as a consultant for various UN and nongovernmental organisations, including advising civil society delegations on the Board of the Global Fund on strategy and policy. She coordinates courses on sexual violence at the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action. She has held visiting fellowships at New York University, Columbia University, and Fordham University.

She is currently preparing a book manuscript on the politics of data in global health finance for Cambridge University Press. In 2017, she was one of three winners of the International Geneva Award.


Selected Publications


  • 2005 Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China's Southwest Borders, Columbia University Press.


  • 2018  with Charmain Mohamed. "Global rights, local risk: Community advocacy on right to health in China." In Tine DeStrooper and Sally E. Merry, eds., Human rights transformation in an unequal world. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • 2018  "Pharmocracy, bureaucracy, advocacy: Three new studies." Book review, Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR).
  • with Doris Schopper and Julia Epps. "Monitoring Interventions to Respond to Sexual Violence in Humanitarian Contexts", Global Health Governance 12(1): Spring, 34-46.
  • 2017  "The Uncounted: Politics of data and visibility in global health." International Journal of Human Rights: Sustainable Development Goals and human rights special issue, ed. Inga Winkler. Winner of the International Geneva Award 2017
  • 2017  with William C. Goedel, John Emerson, Brooke S. Guven. "Punitive laws, key population size estimates, and Global AIDS Response Progress Reports: An ecological study of 154 countries." Journal of the International AIDS Society, 20.1.
  • 2015  "Measuring the impact of human rights on health in global health financing." Health and Human Rights, 17.2: 97-105.
  • 2014  "Human rights and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria." Health and Human Rights, 16:1: 134-147.
  • 2009  with Agus Triwahyuono and Risa Alexander. “Survey of abuses against injecting drug users in Indonesia.” Harm Reduction Journal, 6:28 (October).
  • 2007  "Dance, or else: The Politics of ethnic culture on China’s southwest borders," Japan Focus (February).
  • 2006  "Writing on the wall: Marking the limits of ethnicity on China’s borders." Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia 7 (September).
  • 2003  "Premodern flows in postmodern China: Globalization and the Sipsongpanna Tais," Modern China 29: 176-203.
  • 2001  "Orality, power, and cultural survival in Southwest China." The Drama Review 45:4: 25-41.