Global Health Diplomacy

New Trends in Global Health Diplomacy during COVID-19 Age: Perspectives from Turkey and Japan

Project Background

Japan-Turkey Dialogue on Global Affairs has provided an important platform for academics and strategic thinkers from the two countries to discuss issues of common concern from regional and global perspectives. For 2020-2021 academic term, the scholars from Turkey and Japan will continue to undertake cutting-edge research on how COVID-19 is shaping international relations and the emerging challenges and existing strategic issues interact with each other.

International strategic agenda has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last year. This development has contributed to the fragility and fluidity of the global strategic environment, which had seen the emergence of myriad security challenges. Today, one of the most debated topics in international security concerns the implications of the COVID-19 related developments for global politics and the changes in our understanding of the way nations define their strategic priorities and conduct their foreign policy.

One particular development which has come to fore in the post-COVID-19 era has been some international actors’ efforts to lead global humanitarian diplomacy. Having overcome the initial shock caused by the pandemic, several countries have moved to undertake massive humanitarian campaigns to make contributions to other societies, lacking in terms of their material and human capabilities to deal with a challenge of that magnitude. Although COVID-19 humanitarian diplomacy has been criticized because it has part of the donors’ competition for soft power, medical humanitarianism nonetheless has helped ease the fragile countries to withstand the challenges of pandemic. Both Japan and Turkey have been at the forefront of the pandemic related global humanitarian diplomacy.

Global Health Diplomacy in the wake of COVID-19

As much as traditional security issues are getting attention, the latest COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that non-traditional security issues are posing a greater challenge and can only be ignored at great peril. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the paucity of studies on global health diplomacy, which creates opportunities for a redefinition of hierarchies, global governance, and corresponding power relations in the global order. Global health diplomacy stands at the nexus of such critical issues as humanitarian aid, human security, South-South cooperation, North-South cooperation, and global governance. In addition to the new geopolitical trends, critically engaging these issues and analyzing the existing debates from the perspective of global health diplomacy and global health governance would contribute to our understanding of geopolitics in the new era.

Japan has been a major global health diplomacy actor. It has been a prominent norm entrepreneur of human security approach with its own interpretation of the concept. It has also been a proponent of the universal health coverage which came into world agenda in Ise-Shima G7 Summit when Japan was the host. Japan was active in health issues to be included more comprehensively in SDG 2030 as well. It has been actively involved in Global Health Diplomacy and is one of the major actors on various global health platforms with the most prominent being the Global Fund.  It also has a structured approach to Global Health Diplomacy with a specific division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specializing global health related foreign policy. Japan has also announced its official “Japan’s Strategy on Global Health Diplomacy” in June 2013. 

Turkey has been an emerging actor in global health diplomacy. Since Japan and Turkey are also involved in triangular cooperation, a research track on Turkey and Japan’s global health diplomacy and international comparative perspectives is a valuable intellectual exercise. Japan’s decades long involvement in global health diplomacy as well as the issues involved are not widely known in Turkey. Japan’s relative success in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted interest in Turkish public. Turkey itself has also undertaken medical diplomatic initiatives vis-à-vis various countries globally. Such aid projects on Turkey’s part raised interest nationally and internationally, especially in terms of the drivers of this proactive global health diplomacy. Given the high public interest towards this topic and its relevance in the age of pandemic, it will be a useful exercise to comparatively analyze Turkish and Japanese models, bringing in other international perspectives. This pillar of the project will provide a platform for mutually sharing experiences and analyzing from a comparative perspective post-COVID-19 geopolitical setting and the issues of global health diplomacy.

This web site is developed as part of an ongoing project, entitled Turkey-Japan Dialogue on Global Affairs.
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Ankara, 06560 Türkiye


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