Global governance and market failures mean that it is not possible to ensure access to antimicrobial medicines of sustainable effectiveness. Many people work to overcome these failures, but their institutions and initiatives are insufficiently coordinated, led and financed. Options for promoting global collective action on antimicrobial access and effectiveness include building institutions, crafting incentives and mobilizing interests. No single option is sufficient to tackle all the challenges associated with antimicrobial resistance. Promising institutional options include monitored milestones and an interagency task force. A global pooled fund could be used to craft incentives and a special representative nominated as an interest mobilizer. There are three policy components to the problem of antimicrobials – ensuring access, conservation and innovation. To address all three components, the right mix of options needs to be matched with an effective forum and may need to be supported by an international legal framework.