Country ownership in global health

17 February, 2022

The attached PLOS piece may be useful to some. [*see note below]

Best regards. Najeeb Al-Shorbaji

Country ownership in global health (

HIFA profile: Najeeb Al-Shorbaji recently retired from the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked since 1988 in different capacities. He was most recently Director of the Knowledge, Ethics and Research Department at WHO headquarters, Geneva. Previously he was Coordinator for Knowledge Management and Sharing in EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office), Egypt. He is a member of a number of national and international professional societies and associations specialised in information management and health informatics. He has authored over 100 research papers and articles presented in various conferences and published in professional journals. He is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA Working Group on Multilingualism.

Email: shorbajin AT

[*Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): Thank you Najeeb for this incisive piece. HIFA does not carry attachments. For the benefit of those who may not have immediate web access, here are extracts:

Citation: Noor AM (2022) Country ownership in global health. PLOS Glob Public Health 2(2): e0000113.

'I share ten lessons I have learnt in the last 20 years on how to think about country ownership, if only to contribute to a more conscientious approach to supporting communities in need. It is my hope that all actors across global health would it find it useful, especially students and emerging leaders in this area who are likely to lead its transformation...'

1. Country ownership is not yours to ensure, you certainly cannot confer it

2 Do not confuse government with country, or ministry of health with the health system

3. Have a dialogue, ask questions, listen to those who live with the problem

4. ‘Evidentiary’ knowledge and control over funds create power asymmetries

5. You are a helper and an ally, accept these roles and stay true to them

6. The most important voices for change are often the quietest

7. The power of data to change minds is not simply in the ‘quality of the evidence’ but in the ‘change activism’ it catalyzes

8. One size doesn’t fit all, really!

9. Beware of the policy development addicts

10. Harvesting of national data is the silent scandal of global health

Conclusion: 'If you consider global health as something you do to help those ‘vulnerable others’, then you might find the lessons in this piece burdensome. The fact is global health is not charity, and you are its first client, the abiding lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding this will ensure you practice global health with the most powerful tool you have–empathy. If your approach to supporting countries and communities in need is one that you would find unacceptable if circumstances were reversed, stop and recalibrate. Donor investment in global health, unfortunately, is often driven by geopolitics, as powerful countries and entities try to construct or retain spheres of influence. At times, the geopolitical objectives may conflict with your conscience. Speak up when you can, importantly however, do your best to behave conscientiously, as it is the collective, sustained behaviors of individuals that shape institutional culture.']