Harmonisation is a key principle of the Paris Declaration. The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Partnership, an initiative of the European Union, the Government of Luxembourg and the World Health Organization, supported health policy dialogues between 2012 and 2015 in identified countries in the WHO African Region. The UHC Partnership has amongst its key objectives to strengthen national health policy development. In Guinea and Chad, policy dialogue focused on elaborating the national health plan and other key documents. This study is an analytical reflection inspired by realist evaluative approaches to understand whether policy dialogue led to improved harmonisation amongst health actors in Guinea and Chad, and if so, how and why.
Interviews were conducted in Guinea and Chad with key informants at the national and sub-national government levels, civil society, and development partners. A review of relevant policy documents and reports was added to data collection to construct a full picture of the policy dialogue process. Context-mechanism-outcome configurations were used as the realist framework to guide the analysis on how participants' understanding of what policy dialogue was and the way the policy dialogue process unfolded led to improved harmonisation.
Improved harmonisation as a result of policy dialogue was perceived to be stronger in Guinea than in Chad. While in both countries the participants held a shared view of what policy dialogue was and what it could achieve, and both policy dialogue processes were considered to be well implemented (i.e., well-facilitated, evidence-based, participatory, and consisted of recurring meetings and activities), certain contextual factors in Chad tempered the view of harmonisation as having improved. These were the pre-existence of dialogic policy processes that had exposed the actors to the potential that policy dialogue could have; a focus on elaborating provincial level strategies, which gave the sense that the process was more bottom-up; and the perception that there were acute resource constraints, which conditioned partners' interactions.
Policy dialogue improves harmonisation in terms of fostering information exchange amongst partners; however, it does not appear to influence the operational procedures of the actors. This has implications for aid effectiveness.