Global Health Centre
25 November 2020

How European countries fund global health: Unpacking decision-making and priority-setting processes

European countries play an important role in funding global health organisations and initiatives such as the Global Fund, Gavi, and the World Health Organization (WHO). Relatively little academic research has focused on European global health funders. Improved understanding of how European governments make decisions is even more relevant, since they have taken a central leadership role in funding the global Covid-19 response and supporting multilateral approaches to address the pandemic amidst a near collapse of international cooperation. A new study from the Global Health Centre "How European countries fund global health: Unpacking decision-making and priority-setting processes" describes trends and analyses the factors that drive global health funding decisions within European countries. This new paper, by GHC researchers Fumi Kurihara and Suerie Moon, explores how the ten largest European contributors to development assistance for health (DAH) – the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Denmark – decide upon priorities and channel funding for DAH and the WHO.

How European Countries Fund Global Health: Unpacking Decision-Making and Priority-Setting Processes

Based on quantitative and qualitative data, the study summarises financing trends over time and presents the rationales behind the numbers through interviews with global health policymakers from all ten countries. The study found that financial contributions of the top ten European governments is generally on par with the United States, with Europe funding more of the WHO budget and the US funding a greater share of other global health initiatives. The research identifies four main factors that influence decision-making:

  • The division of political and financial responsibilities across ministries of foreign affairs and ministries of health;
  • The political preferences of heads of state, ministers, and members of parliaments;
  • The technocratic preferences within the civil service, such as path dependence of longstanding funding arrangements and the performance of agencies;
  • Peer-pressure and tacit coordination between European governments.
This study is part of our project "Polio Eradication: Overcoming the Final Barriers and Ensuring a Lasting Legacy for Health Systems"
To launch the study, the Global Health Centre hosted a research seminar with the lead author of the paper, Fumi Kurihara.