Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

MMI working group on effective health cooperation (MMI EHC)

MMI working group on effective health cooperation (MMI EHC)

The MMI working group on Effective Health Cooperation was launched in 2016, with a WHA side event on “Promoting access to health in fragile contexts: What role for international cooperation?” in May, the Berlin workshop on “Health cooperation beyond aid” and the presentation of a MMI discussion paper on “Health Cooperation: Its relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness as a contribution to achieving universal access to health” as highlights.

Reviewing the achievements and preparing the current MMI EHC work plan 2018-19, working group members and the Board of the MMI NEtwork confirmed the ambition that MMI EHC shall continue providing spaces and instruments for in-depth reflection and dialogue among actors in international health cooperation. A particular challenge is to break down the political questions to the institutional level of the Network members in order to engage them further in the dialogue.


Welcome to MMI EHC

Welcome to MMI EHC

MMI Network Strategy 2016-20

The previous Network strategy explicitly focused on contributing to health system strengthening as common denominator for Network activities. The MMI Network strategy 2016-20 further specifies this approach, asking how international cooperation itself can best contribute to strengthening health systems and policies, and how to avoid weakening them: "By the end of 2020, Network members will be able to build on a range of platforms and instruments for knowledge sharing and mutual learning in the field of international health cooperation."

Source: MMI Network Strategy 2016-20


"Advance health cooperation beyond aid" MMI EHC work plan 2018-2019

MMI EHC work plan 2018-2019 is based on the overall objective of MMI EHC: “In a rapidly changing and unstable world with increasing inequities, we promote democratic, legitimate and effective health cooperation for social justice, global solidarity, respect to human rights”. For the underlying analysis, we refer to the MMI discussion paper “Health Cooperation: Its relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness as a contribution to achieving universal access to health” published in October 2016.

The plan covers two interrelated fields of work:

1. Advocacy and policy dialogue at global, national, local levels

"By the end of 2019, a critical narrative on development cooperation policies and practices in the health sector and beyond finds greater attention by the key actors involved."

Growing nationalism, democratic regressions, economic neoliberalism, as well as an ecological crisis contribute to increasing inequities, deteriorated social cohesion and poor health. All these trends influence the discourse on international cooperation.

At the same time, citizen groups criticize or reject the (economic) development model and instruments (see advocacy on planetary boundaries, circular economy, degrowth). The work of visionaries and promoters of an integrated and holistic “global domestic policy” based on shared values, as expressed in the UN SDG agenda must be propagated further.

The aspirational goals and targets contained in the SDG agenda require substantial transformative action at global, national and local level, but this is rarely addressed or discussed when development cooperation is debated. Also too little attention is given to the political economy of attaining the SDGs.

The current mainstream discourse on international health cooperation shows all these fissures, e.g. with the promotion a global health security agenda (post-Ebola), the macroeconomic case for “investing in health”, the promotion of a narrowly defined “universal health coverage” instead of universal access to health, the business model of “innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships”, and the hype around technological innovation.

There are platforms for the dialogue on policies and methods of international/health cooperation, such as the newly established multi-stakeholder Partnership for Universal Health Coverage (UHC2030) or the structures provided by OECD or ECOSOC. It is, however, quite a challenge to contribute to these platforms with critical views and evidence as they largely follow traditional patterns and routines among powerful players, experts and “stakeholders”.

In the field of advocacy and policy dialogue at global, national, local levels, MMI and its working group on EHC will

  • formulate, promote, disseminate and seek political traction for a critical narrative on international exchanges concerning policies that affect public health;

  • support those with critical first-hand experience with or affected by international health cooperation to feed their voices into the debate at all levels;

  • participate in and contribute to a global civil society conversation and actions on socio-ecological justice, reducing social inequalities, rejecting the planet’s ecological destruction, promoting an alternative economic model beyond the development model of the last two centuries;

  • invest activities on key topics and opportunities in the international calendar where Network members and partners are already engaged.

MMI and its working group on EHC are well positioned to influence the global conversation on sustainable development and development cooperation in the health sector and beyond:

  • MMI members contribute expertise and evidence from different perspective, in particular: field experience in health cooperation, academic research; policy development and evaluation and political advocacy.
  • MMI is in a good position to convene and foster discussion and learning processes on policies and practices of institutions of international health cooperation.
  • MMI has already a good track record and reputation as a promoter of “health cooperation beyond aid” which can be used as a reference and starting point for continued and enhanced activities.
  • Through its WHO/UHC2030 related work and its membership in the People’s Health Movement (PHM), MMI is part of a global network of critical civil society and has a good reputation as both convenor and advocate.

2. Institutional strengthening of International Health NGOs

"By the end of 2019, NGOs in the field of international health cooperation have been provided with opportunities and new valid platforms and instruments for institutional learning, sharing and cooperation for improving their policies and practices."

Many of the members of the MMI Network are rooted and engaged in development cooperation for health (health cooperation). Promoting “relevant” and “effective” health cooperation towards improving health outcomes and strengthening health systems has become an important aim of many NGOs.

However, there is still a lack of platforms in which they can critically reflect on their work and values, share their know-how and experiences, learn from each other and have an opportunity to further develop their institutional and personal skills and practices in view of advancing their work beyond the established aid paradigm.

In order to be relevant, legitimate and effective, the work of international NGOs in the field of health cooperation needs to reflect on its underlying values and norms.

As a starting point for a deeper conversation with Network members and partners, and referring to our discussion paper (2016), we propose the following “good qualities” of international health cooperation:

  • It contributes to achieving universal access to health.
  • It promotes health equity and human rights.
  • It strengthens and does not weaken people centred health systems.
  • It is demand driven and based on partnership between institutions and people.
  • It is aware of its catalytic nature and its structural role, responsibilities and limitations.
  • It promotes and includes continued learning and reflecting on approaches, methods and practices.
  • It is part of an institution’s broader engagement for global health equity and human rights to address the broader determinants of health and health policies.

In the field of institutional strengthening of International Health NGOs, MMI and its working group on EHC will

  • deepen the conversation about “health cooperation beyond aid” among NGOs within and beyond the MMI Network;
  • broaden the conversation beyond northern NGOs and include in particular academia and critical civil society voices from the Global South;
  • focus activities, topics and services on the realities of its members and other NGOs engaged in health cooperation and react to their specific demand;
  • identify synergy between members and advancing good practices and promoting good cooperation.

MMI is well positioned to provide thematic leadership and promote related networking and cooperation among its members.

  • MMI is in existence for more than fifty years. It was formed by its members and has since then remained a member-driven network. Our EHC work is historically rooted in the engagement of MMI Network members in health cooperation, in the promotion of health systems strengthening and the structural integration of “private not-for-profit” organizations in national health systems, and in the promotion of evidence based health cooperation. The history of MMI shows the evolution of these themes, e.g. from providing financial and technical input to private not-for profit health facilities (often owned by church institutions) to promoting a meaningful integration of such institutions into national health systems and to fostering the leadership of countries and communities in the planning and provision of universal health care.

  • MMI has a good track record and reputation as a networker, facilitator and service provider to its members and partners, by promoting their work (in particular: conferences and publication) through its working groups and communication channels, and by linking them with a broader audience through events and platforms such as at the World Health Assembly and selected global and WHO hosted programmes.

  • With the launch of MMI EHC, and based on the outcome of the working group in its first two years, MMI is well positioned to further promote good policies and practices among its members and partners.

The  MMI EHC work plan 2018-19 (PDF, 11 pages) including full lists of key topics and outlines of planned activities can be ordered at the Network secretariat.

The implementation of the work plan is financially supported by the Open Society Foundations.


MMI EHC: Basics and updates

  • MMI updates on Twitter, with a focus on debates and resources related to international health cooperation and global health policy:



MMI EHC: Network conferences

  • In the public interest? The role of international health cooperation in strengthening or weakening national health policies and systems. MMI workshop at the 4th People's Health Assembly, November 2018
    Announcement and documentation
  • International cooperation and strengthening or weakening national health policies and systems. Official side event on the Astana Global Primary Health Care Conference, October 2018
    Announcement and documentation
  • #AidToo: Sexual exploitation in international cooperation. Prevent, respond adequately – and most of all: address the root causes. MMI side event to the World Health Assembly, May 2018
    Announcement and documentation
  • Digital health, eHealth, mHealth: Breakthrough for public health or creating new dependency? A critical look at the current hype. MMI Side event to the Geneva Health Forum, April 2018
    Announcement and documentation
  • Health Cooperation beyond aid
    Session at ECTMIH 2017 organized by MMI EHC, October 2017
    Announcement and documentation
    See our related essay contest
  • Health Cooperation beyond aid
    Public lunch event during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, 27 May 2017
    Announcement and documentation
  • Effective health cooperation
    MMI Network meeting in Berlin, 28-29 September 2016
  • Promoting access to health in fragile contexts: What role for international cooperation?
    MMI workshop during the World Health Assembly in Geneva May 2016
  • International health cooperation and Health Systems Strengthening
    "Federal Café" debate hosted by MMI at the Geneva Health Forum in Geneva, April 2016
  • How to bridge between health systems researchers and practitioners in the field of international health cooperation
    MMI hosted session at ECTMIH 2015 congress in Basel, September 2015
  • A luta continua! Strengthening or weakening health systems?
    Workshop at the Annual Assembly of MMI in Geneva, May 2015
  • An ideal match! Successfully connecting NGO practice and Health Systems Research
    MMI session at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Cape Town, October 2014
  • Health systems strengthening and conflict transformation in fragile states
    Medicus Mundi International Network expert meeting hosted by Cordaid at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam, October 2012
  • Getting evidence into NGO practice and policy
    MMI workshop in Amsterdam, October 2012
  • In the public interest? The role of NGOs in national health systems and global health policy
    MMI workshop at the People's Health Assembly in Cape Town, July 2012

Announcements of upcoming conferences of the MMI Network and its members can be found here.



MMI EHC: Core Group

All MMI Network members as well as external partners are invited and will be systematically called to engage in the Network's activities in the field of Effective Health Cooperation. The work of MMI EHC is coordinated and led by a Core Group with the following members (March 2019):

  • Carlos Mediano, Medicus Mundi Spain
  • Christina de Vries, Cordaid
  • Martin Leschhorn, Medicus Mundi Switzerland (Coordinator)
  • Remco van de Pas, ITM Antwerp
  • Thomas Schwarz and Vittorio Giorgetti (Secretariat)
Network members: For any enquiries related to MMI EHC, please reach out to the coordinator or secretariat

Interested in our work? Consider joining the Medicus Mundi International Network!

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