February 2009

Leaders, Networks and Coalitions in the AIDS Response: A Comparison of Uganda and South Africa

Eduard Grebe, Nicoli Nattrass

A quarter century into the AIDS epidemic, it is increasingly recognised that ‘AIDS leadership’ is crucial to sustaining and improving national and international responses. Under what conditions, and by which processes, do effective AIDS response coalitions emerge? And importantly, how can the international community encourage their formation?

An effective AIDS response requires cooperative collective action by a wide range of actors at all levels of society. Successful response, such as the much-cited Ugandan ‘success story’, is often attributed to such broad and concerted action across a society. However, it is widely recognised that this presents a formidable leadership challenge. This paper uses DLP’s work on the role of leadership in forging coalitions to propose a new definition of effective AIDS leadership.

Key points:

Members of political and economic elites, state bureaucracies, civil society, the private sector and even multilateral institutions and donors are required to participate in the formulation and implementation of progressive policies on AIDS prevention and treatment. However, solutions to complex collective action problems are hard to come by, whether in theory or practice.

The DLP perspective of the role of leaders in forging ‘coalitions’, “an association of groups and organisations working to resolve specific problems . . . that are beyond the capacity of any individual member to the coalition to resolve. . . ” is useful in this context.

This paper therefore proposes a definition of effective AIDS leadership that describes it as the ability to mobilise successful AIDS response coalitions. Such leadership should be approached relationally to resolve the complex collective action problems of coalition-building to agree policy and implement it.

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Leaders, Networks and Coalitions in the AIDS Response: A Comparison of Uganda and South Africa

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