Global public health 2017 12 15() 1-12 doi 10.1080/17441692.2017.1414286
In recent years, philanthropic actors such as the Gates Foundation have been understood as commanding sweeping influence in global health. They have been associated with the outsourcing of public health services, shifting of policy priorities, and the eventual sidelining of national governments. This article makes a different argument about the impact of global philanthropic actors. It focuses on the work of the Gates Foundation in India over the last decade and a half, tracing how the foundation initially circumvented the national government but then moved on to a discourse of partnership. Ironically, after an early discounting of the role of the government, the foundation later sought to transition its programmes to the state. The foundation’s evolving trajectory reflects its experiences on the ground and also the difficulties of realising its original ambitions. While the foundation’s work in India is marked by ebbs and flows, the state’s institutions remain constant. The article argues that there is not always a straightforward marginalisation of the government vis-à-vis global philanthropic actors. Actors such as the Gates Foundation, perceived as enormously powerful in global health institutions in Geneva and New York, may have a far more qualified impact in large developing countries such as India.