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Cross-Sector Partnerships and World Politics: Institutional Dynamics in the Global Struggle against Malaria

abstract In excited depictions, cross-sector partnerships are presented as a panacea to a variety of problems that, allegedly, none of the three sectors involved (public, business and civil sector) could solve on its own. Taking this enthusiasm as a point of departure, the present study calls for a more cautious stance towards cross-sector partnerships. The study is especially concerned with the unintended consequences of these partnerships – such as the possible blurring of the boundaries between the different sectors that could be leading to power concentration and institutional bias.

The Introduction (Chapter 1) explains the context and the relevance of this study before the question that underlies this study is formulated: are cross-sector partnerships especially likely to lead to power concentration and institutional bias? Chapter 2 argues that there are good reasons to keep the different sectors separate from one another and that even seemingly self-evident solutions to apparently obvious problems must be contestable. Chapter 3 develops a hinge between the defence of sectoral divides (Chapter 2) and the empirical investigation of sectoral configurations in Chapters 5 to 9. It does so by pointing out that the sectoral divides have to be understood in terms of analogical classifications that help people to structure their experiences. The important insight from this perspective is that even though they are inter-subjectively shared and although they help to structure experiences they are not static. The conceptual explication for this is that the sectors are not a monolithic whole but that they describe a polythetic class of concepts.

Chapter 4 develops the tools for an empirical analysis of the implications of the dynamics in sectoral divides. To this end, it elaborates upon the works of authors who have tried to empirically analyse the impact of interactions across sectoral boundaries. Power is an important analytical category in this context and the control over resources is a way to conceptualise the sources of this power. Since most of the literature hitherto discussed is from the field of political science, which implicitly assumes that the analysis of power would be applied to political institutions, the discussions of power concludes by pointing at the fact that grievances cannot only be uttered through voice (as assumed by political scientists) but also through exit (as assumed by economists). Subsequently, the chapter presents a heuristic device that helps to focus and structure the account of the empirical developments in Chapters 5 to 9. The last part of the chapter elaborates on the question of why the issue area of malaria was chosen and on the question of how research proceeds in the empirical part.

In Chapters 5 to 9 the expectation that cross-sector partnerships are an especially likely path towards power concentration and institutional bias is tested. As the empirical analysis shows, this expectation can actually be falsified in the field of malaria. An explanation for this observation is that one impression that the term cross-sector partnership creates is actually misleading. The partnerships do not unify the different sectors and thereby reduce the number of independent actors; rather, partnerships have parent organisations in different sectors that keep their independence and remain much more within their sectors than expected. Thus, cross-sector partnerships contribute to an increase in the number of actors and not to a decrease. Moreover, while the theoretical expectation that cross-sector partnerships concentrate power and lead to bias can be partially confirmed at the level of individual partnerships, it does not hold when the issue area as a whole is taken as level of analysis: since the overall institutional pluralism is combined with a privileging of exit over voice, policies in the struggle against malaria remain still contestable. The diachronic comparison shows furthermore that cross-sectoral collaboration is not a radically new phenomenon, that the struggle against malaria has also historically suffered from biases, and that power concentration has been a recurrent danger. The scope and implications of these findings will be discussed in the concluding part of Chapter 9.
keywords see abstract
type dissertation project
status completed
start of project 2005
end of project 2010
additional informations
topics see abstract
methods see abstract
contact Julian Eckl