Decolonising Global Health

Shifting Power, Resisting Exploitation, and Advancing Equity in Global Health

Date Published
3 Feb 2022
Expected Start Date
01 Jan 2021
Expected End Date
31 Dec 2025
Project Status

It is well established that colonialism and coloniality produce unequal and exploitative relationships, as well as culturally-inappropriate and badly-designed health policies and programmes. With some roots in colonial and tropical medicine and in the post-colonial imposition of structural adjustment programmes and donor-driven aid programmes on developing countries, colonial power asymmetries have always been a feature of global health. A decolonised and anti-colonial global health offers a vision of equitable and sustainable development, and good health for all.

As a think tank with a mission to promote the values and principles of the UN Charter and amplify the perspectives of the Global South, UNU-IIGH views decolonisation as a process that positively shifts power and encourages forms of global health practice that are better tailored to the needs and contexts of low- and middle-incomes countries and marginalised population groups everywhere.

To address colonialism and coloniality as global health problems, we need a shared understanding of what we mean by colonialism and coloniality, and how it relates to global health. Here we share an explanation of how we define colonialism, coloniality, and other related terms and concepts, and have also published in this Bulletin of the WHO piece, a conceptual framework of three intersecting dimensions consisting of: colonialism within global health; colonisation of global health; and colonialism through global health.  

We have also encouraged continuing conversations with the help of the Miami Institute for Social Sciences through the publication of this essay and subsequent replies, which you can find here and here


Working Paper

World-class Education? Interrogating the Biases and Coloniality of Global University Rankings

UNU-IIGH is announces the formation of an Independent Expert Group (IEG) to discuss global university rankings.

27 Feb 2023


Who benefits from undermining breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding's decline, driven by CMF companies' aggressive marketing, poses major public health issues.

01 Oct 2022

Think Pieces

Blog Post

What we mean by colonialism & coloniality

Here we describe our use of the terms colonialism and coloniality and how this informs our work.

03 May 2024

Journal Article

Investing in public health systems is a global common good

These common goods for health are fundamental to protecting and promoting health and wellbeing.

14 Oct 2022

Journal Article

A call to action to reform academic global health partnerships

Global health is hindered by inequities between high-income and lower-income countries, impacting resource access and development.

01 Nov 2021

Journal Article

Dialogical reflexivity towards collective action to transform global health

COVID-19 highlights systemic inequities, spurring calls to decolonize global health and dismantle power asymmetries.

11 Aug 2021

Journal Article

Undoing supremacy in global health will require more than decolonisation

Decolonizing global health requires addressing power imbalances, respecting diverse values, and confronting internal inequities within countries.

20 Mar 2021

Blog Post

Contemporary Colonialism and Global Health

New UNU-IIGH's Decolonising Global Health programme of work

28 Sep 2022

Related content

Blog Post

What we mean by colonialism & coloniality

Here we describe our use of the terms colonialism and coloniality and how this informs our work.

03 May 2024


Decolonising global health research: Shifting power for transformative change

New PLOS Global Public Health article reveals how power imbalances undermine equitable health research policies, practices and outcomes.

25 Apr 2024