Constructing Soft Power: Understanding Thailand’s Rise in Global Health Governance

Joseph Harris, Boston University

Over the past two decades, a small Southeast Asian country has seen its delegation to the World Health Organization’s governing World Health Assembly grow from a small cadre of inexperienced civil servants to one of the largest and most active delegations of all member states. In fact, Thailand has become so highly regarded on issues pertaining to global public health that China has sent people to Thailand to learn from the country’s approach to global health diplomacy, and industrialized and industrializing nations regularly consult with the nation’s representatives on sensitive political issues and technical matters. How has a resource constrained nation from the Global South developed such a reputation in a policy domain that has historically been dominated by larger powers? And what insight does Thailand’s experience offer in helping us to understand how peripheral actors come to exercise influence on the global stage? This paper, based on approximately 80 interviews, explores the social construction of Thailand’s reputation in global public health through an examination of the development of Thailand Global Health over two decades – a program that was not originally fashioned with the aim of positioning Thailand strategically in affairs related to global health governance, but which has come to do so through a series of complementary and contingent developments.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 156. Figuring Global Politics