Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

Thematic guide: Effective Health Cooperation - with a focus on the role of International NGOs

Thematic guide: Effective Health Cooperation - with a focus on the role of International NGOs

Our thematic guide to internet resources leads you beyond the limits of the Medicus Mundi International Network. For MMI Network resources, see the links to several sections of the MMI ePlatform below. Any important resources missing? Please let us know.

The MMI working group on Effective Health Cooperation

“It is now becoming clearer that NGOs, if not careful and vigilant, can undermine the public sector and even the health system as a whole, by diverting health workers, managers and leaders into privatized operations that create parallel structures to government and that tend to worsen the isolation of communities from formal health systems. The purpose of the NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening is to offer guidance on how international NGOs can work in host countries in a way that respects and supports the primacy of the government’s responsibility for organizing health system delivery. The code serves as a guide to encourage NGO practices that contribute to building public health systems and discourage those that are harmful.” (NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening, 2008,


MMI Network: resources

Discussion paper

  • Health Cooperation: Its relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness as a contribution to achieving universal access to health. MMI Discussion paper (2016)
    > PDF

Working group and Network events

  • MMI working group on Effective Health Cooperation


Key networks, competence centres, instruments

Aid effectiveness (general)

  • Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action (2005/2008)
    "At the Second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (2005) it was recognised that aid could - and should - be producing better impacts.  The Paris Declaration was endorsed in order to base development efforts on first-hand experience of what works and does not work with aid. It is formulated around five central pillars:  Ownership, Alignment, Harmonisation, Managing for Results and Mutual Accountability. In 2008 at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness an even greater number and wider diversity of stakeholders endorsed the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA). The AAA both reaffirms commitment to the Paris Declaration and calls for greater partnership between different parties working on aid and development." (OECD)

International health cooperation and health systems

  • UHC2030
    "For countries that receive external assistance to develop health systems, adhering to effective development cooperation principles is still the most important way to ensure coordination around health systems strengthening.  Given this significance, UHC2030 will build on the work of IHP+ and the bi-annual monitoring of effective development cooperation in the health sector."
  • Former IHP+: Global Compact
    The IHP+ approach included providing support to strong and comprehensive country and government-led national health plans in a well-coordinated way. Our partners were developing countries, bi-lateral donor countries and international development agencies, while civil society organisations were less formally involved.
  • NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening (2008)
    "The Code is a response to the growth in the number of international non-governmental organizations associated with increase in aid flows to the health sector. The purpose of the Code is to offer guidance on how international NGOs can work in host countries in a way that respects and supports the primacy of the government’s responsibility for organizing health system delivery."

International cooperation and humanitarian aid

  • CAS Alliance
    "CHS Alliance forms one of the largest and most influential networks of organisations committed to improving humanitarian and development work through the application of standards. ."
  • The Sphere Project (humanitarian aid)
    The Sphere Project is a voluntary initiative that brings a wide range of humanitarian agencies together around a common aim - to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance and the accountability of humanitarian actors to their constituents, donors and affected populations.

NGO accountability

  • Accountable now
  • International Civil Society Centre

    "The International Civil Society Centre helps the world’s leading international civil society organisations (ICSOs) maximise their impact for a sustainable and more equitable world." 

Humanitarian Aid

  • Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief (1994)
    "This code seeks to safeguard high standards of behaviour and maintain independence and effectiveness in disaster relief. In the event of armed conflict, its clauses are to be interpreted and applied in conformity with international humanitarian law. It is a voluntary code, enforced by the will of organizations accepting it to maintain the standards it lays down."
  • Core Humanitarian Standard (ongoing process)
    "In humanitarian disaster or conflict situations it is critical that aid workers deliver their best quality work. Yet in a sector characterised by high turnover, rapid deployments, steep learning curves, and the need to collaborate with multiple humanitarian actors, it is often difficult for responders to know when and how to apply the standards that enable them to deliver their best work, and to be accountable to the communities they serve. The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability has been devised to clarify the responsibilities of aid workers, and to make the implementation of the standard simpler and easier."

Role and future of development cooperation, "aid" and international NGOs in a changing world: the debate (updated until 2016)

"Our world is changing quickly and profoundly. Rich and poor – regardless of where they live – are faced with increasingly ‘thick’ problems and social change is more politicized and contested than ever before. And yet, most international development NGOs keep offering ‘thin’ solutions to these problems. Solutions geared to measurable material success. Solutions that are aimed at increasing participation in unsustainable economies and polities." (The Broker)




Special: The Band Aid revival for Ebola




  • International NGOs must address their accountability deficit. Michael Jennings
  • Thick problems and thin solutions: How NGOs can bridge the gap. "Think (or thick?) piece" by M Edwards
  • It’s the future calling …for creativity coupled with a can-do attitude. J Stremmelaar and R Berkhout


  • Flexibility and time key to successful partnerships between NGOs and Ministries of Health. Virtual Expert Panel discussion, December 2011
  • African governments, NGOs and civil society: A crisis of legitimacy? Arrianna Marie, Future Challenges (2011)
  • Giving substance to pretty words. NGO's role in bolstering public health systems.
    Interview with Wendy Johnson in: (2011)

Source: MMI updates on Twitter


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