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Pre- and post-pandemic health diplomacy

In the winter of 2020, the Global Health Network (Global Health Netzwerks) hosted an online lecture series on perspectives, opportunities and challenges of global health (’Global Health – Perspektiven, Chancen und Herausforderungen’). On 1 December, InsSciDE’s Katharina Paul contributed to a session on the theory and practice of health diplomacy.

Katharina (University of Vienna) opened with an introduction of InsSciDE Health, a work package with case studies ranging from biodiversity as a global health good and epidemic diplomacy in 19th century Europe, to blood safety on an international level and vaccination policy in Europe. The two former cases were dissected in detail during Warsaw Science Diplomacy School 2020 and the latter is Katharina’s own specialization.

The presentation zoomed in on two kinds of health diplomacy, drawing a distinction between pre- and post-pandemic times. Discussing ’everyday health diplomacy’, Katharina shared her and Anna Pichelstorfer’s research into vaccination data collation and its use by the World Health Organization.

Through a political science-driven theoretical perspective, she critically engaged with current conceptions of health diplomacy and highlighted the prevalence of national interests in current policies. Health diplomacy seems an optimistic term - it hides away from conflict between national interests, and risks black-boxing what’s going on in domestic politics. She also mentioned the importance of the broader practice of science diplomacy informing health-specific diplomacy. A prominent example is the movement of open science, its significance illustrated in an InsSciDE webinar moderated by Katharina in September, in which Dr Emma Hodcroft of Nextstrain described the capacity to trace the spread of Covid-19 by plotting genetic sequences of the virus from across the world.

The session was complemented by Elisabeth Schulte, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Health, who gave insight into the practice of German health policy at the global level.

The Global Health Network is jointly organized by the German GandHI - Globalization and Health Initiative and Global Health Alliance Deutschland.


Published 9 December 2020

Pre- and post-pandemic health diplomacy
1 December 2020
Presentation by Katharina Paul
Leader of InsSciDE Health

Related links

  • Click here to learn more about Katharina’s background and her case study Europeanizing Vaccination Policy: Towards a better understanding of ’Health Data Diplomacy’ in Europe
  • Global Health Netzwerks’ online lecture series (German)
  • InsSciDE’s Health Diplomacy Open Session at WSDS, June 2020