Global collaboration is essential if we are to solve global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. This entails not only cooperation between countries, but also between various actors in both the private and public sector, such as governments, international organisations such as the UN and the World Health Organization, civil society organisations and researchers. Despite the fact that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are viewed as necessary, they raise a number of political, legal and ethical dilemmas.
The PANPREP research project studies how such PPPs operate in practice, and what consequences they entail for the public's confidence in their government's ability to handle a crisis like Covid-19. We explore how the Norwegian authorities have promoted PPPs in pandemic preparedness and response both nationally and internationally. Through qualitative and ethnographic methods, the team is researching Norway's role in the foundation and financing of global PPPs such as CEPI, which develops vaccines, and ACT-A, which attempts to secure equal access to Covid-19 tests and equipment, medicines and vaccines globally. We also analyse the private sector's participation in the development of technology related to monitoring diseases, medical raw materials and Norway's role in the medical response to crises.
We are now over one year into our three-year PANPREP project. The multidisciplinary research team, all working at the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo, Norway, comprises: Katerini T. Storeng (project lead); Desmond McNeill (emeritus); Kristian Bjørkdahl (postdoctoral fellow); Felix Stein (postdoctoral fellow); Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée (PhD candidate); and Aurelia India Neumark (project coordinator).
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought attention to the importance of reliable public-private cooperation in ensuring national and global health security. Though widely touted as both essential and innovative, public authorities' growing reliance on non-state actors, including private companies, creates significant challenges of oversight and introduces a new ethos and interests into global public health efforts, and pose challenges relating to regulation and trust.
The PANPREP project examines how such public-private collaboration operates in practice in Norway's pandemic preparedness and response, both domestically and through involvement in global initiatives like the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccines pillar COVAX, in which Norway plays a leading role. The project's work packages focus on public-private cooperation within different domains: pandemic financing, disease surveillance technologies (focusing on the DHIS2), procurement of medical commodities and vaccines, and emergency medical response. A cross-cutting WP examines the implications of new forms of public-private cooperation for public trust in the state's ability to deliver public health and societal security in the face of a major crisis like Covid-19.
The project findings will improve the knowledge base on the conditions for, and consequences of, different models of public-private cooperation for Norway's pandemic preparedness and response. The project findings will hold relevance for a variety of project end-users, including public health and civil protection authorities, and private (for- and non-profit) actors involved in improving pandemic preparedness and societal security in Norway and internationally.