Heath Sector Network Governance and State-building in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Abstract

Longstanding patterns of interaction exist between state and non-state actors seeking to improve public health in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC is a weak state, and, in many cases, private actors have stepped in to fill the void created by the lack of state health care provision. However, the role of these interactions in creating a governance network in the health sector has been underexplored. Using data from 18 months of qualitative field research, this study aimed to explore governance networks in DRC's health sector, examining how multiple stakeholders work to manage the health system and how the resulting governance network has been relevant for the state-building process. The findings demonstrate that the health sector in South Kivu is emerging as an arena of networked governance based on active partnerships between state institutions and non-state actors. Interactions between state and non-state actors account for the persistence of the health sector in a setting characterized by state weakness. However, networked governance does not function optimally, because, although non-state interventions fill the void where the state falls short, the DRC state has faced the challenge of interacting with partners with fragmented and horizontally competing agendas. Although weak, the shadow of state authority is present in the arena of stakeholders' interactions, as the state plays a determining role by providing a regulatory framework. Overall, the findings show that the interactive engagement of non-state actors contributes to improving institutional capacity through these actors' engagement with state institutions for health system management and institutional development. However, although networked health sector governance does contribute to state capacity, it is difficult to assess the real influence of these interactions on the state-building process in a context of critical fragility, where coordination and alignment have been problematic.

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