The importance of the regional dimension of health diplomacy is only gaining slow and uneven recognition. This is in many ways surprising. As demonstrated in the work of Deacon on the ‘globalization of social policy’, global social policy has been animated and debated not only at the multilateral level but at the regional level as well. But at least in the diplomatic literature, the importance of this regional dynamic (with a focus on diverse sites and actors and the pursuit of democratic control) has been missed.
The objective of this article is to explore whether health diplomacy is catching up to this larger debate re-shaping the conceptualization and practice of diplomacy more generally. In some ways, the results may be counter-productive in that this shift may encourage an increasingly fragmented process. Yet, it may also point to some breakthroughs, with diplomats, acting as ‘go to’ personnel on the front lines of operational activity, enabling actors to integrate with one another to produce effective governance. In doing so, the regional dimension is given greater recognition as a component of health diplomacy, albeit in an uneven and sometimes awkward manner. Whereas global diplomacy generally emphasizes problem solving, the regional dimension is animated by a normative orientation.