New research to examine poverty reduction and regional integration

Dr Pia Riggirozzi (PAIR) is to start a new funded research project funded by ESRC-DFID Poverty Alleviation 2013.

Titled ‘Poverty reduction and regional integration: a comparative analysis of SADC and UNASUR health policies’, the project examines the scope for enhancing Southern multilateral regional organisations’ contributions to poverty reduction through regional health policy, and it is guided by the following question: what regional institutional practices and methods of regional policy formation are conducive to the emergence of embedded pro-poor health strategies, and what can national, regional and international actors do to promote such practices and methods?

Dr Riggirozzi will examine and compare the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) institutional mechanisms and policy development methods and practices. The project investigates how regional and national levels of authority are co-produce and are connected by these; and develops monitoring instruments (Toolkits) to assess regional policy change and success in relation to impoverished populations’ access to health care and medicines in Zambia and Swaziland in Southern Africa, and Bolivia and Paraguay in South America.

The central hypotheses underpinning this question are that there are unexplored synergies between regional institutions and poverty reduction; that regional integration processes have potentially significant impacts on health equity and access to health care, and that there is scope for effective policy intervention. There is growing recognition that regional integration ambitions and initiatives extend beyond commercial trade and investment to embrace health and welfare policy, but little is known about whether and how regional commitments on poverty are being implemented in these domains and what kinds of regional policy development processes are conducive to the emergence of embedded pro-poor approaches and effects in regional and national spheres. We investigate this by undertaking a comparative analysis of SADC and UNASUR’s regional agendas and ambitions, regional programmes of action and regional processes of policy development in relation to access to health care, undertaking in-depth fieldwork in low income countries of Zambia, Swaziland, Bolivia and Paraguay confronted with serious socio-economic challenges, low levels of service delivery and immense public health challenges. We undertake data collection and data analysis using mixed methods, comparative and participatory approaches and methodologies. In doing so, the project seeks to contribute new analytical and evidence to debates about the role and effectiveness of regional formations in health-poverty reduction programmes and what actors such as international donors, civil society organisations, governments and business and philanthropic organisations can do to support pro-poor regional health policies.

The project brings together a cross-disciplinary team of researchers in renowned institutions in Southern Africa (South African Institute of International Affairs, South Africa), South America (FLACSO, Argentina), United Nations University /Institute for Comparative Regional Integration Studies (Belgium), and the Open University and the University of Southampton in the UK.

Dissemination of research outputs will enhance the scope for improvements in regional health policy for poverty reduction and policy options, while contributing to academic debates about global/ regional (health) diplomacy.

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