Official: WHO Budget Cuts Not Likely To Impact Work On Innovation, IP23/05/2011 by Catherine Saez and William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Significant budget cuts being approved this week at the World Health Organization will not affect programmes related to intellectual property rights, innovation and public health, a WHO official has told Intellectual Property Watch. In fact, the WHO is intensifying its work in these areas. The WHO is making substantive cuts and instituting profound reforms that some see as an open door to private sector interests to increase their influence in the government-driven United Nations body. But if the WHO sticks to its mandate on IP rights and innovation, it should remain impervious to increased outside influence in those areas, as this work has been closely guarded.WHO has been working on these issues for several years, and is guided by the landmark 2008 Global Strategy and Plan of Action (IPW, WHO, 29 May 2008).The mandate of the current WHO working group on alternative financing for research and development into neglected diseases arose from the May 2010 World Health Assembly and extends to May 2012. This week, an update will be presented to the WHO Executive Board (IPW, WHO, 21 May 2010).WHO’s work is decided by the membership, noted a WHO official close to these matters, and the work related to the Global Strategy and Plan of Action was created and approved by the membership. Therefore, the work “will remain by our mandate a priority,” the official said, “unless at some point going forward [members] want to reset their priorities.”In the meantime, the WHO is “at the moment redoubling our efforts,” the official said. Now they are in the process of going to the countries to do assessments and identify the weaker areas in need of additional work.General Budget Cuts at WHOThat the WHO had to tighten its belt was obvious, given its announced financial shortfall disclosed earlier this year. The budget expected to be adopted by the World Health Assembly this week shows a cut of US$845 million over two years.The draft 2012/2013 biennium budget presented by the organisation during the WHO Executive Board meeting in January showed a figure of US$ 4.8 billion (IPW, WHO, 25 January 2011). But the budget for 2012/2013 that was adopted this week is US$3,959 billion.The WHO said the organisation will undertake a staff cut of 300 people at headquarters in Geneva, out of 2,400 current employees, by December 2011. Short-term as well as permanent staff will be affected by the cut, Elil Renganathan, WHO director of planning, resource coordination and performance monitoring, told a press briefing. The organisation will also cut travel, publications, and recruitment fees, he said. However, cuts to the lofty UN salaries cannot really be considered as the WHO runs under UN staff rules, he said.In the new budget, 24 percent comes from member state dues, and 76 percent from voluntary contributions, half of which is from governments, Renganathan said. The other half of the voluntary contributions are from other UN agencies, foundations, and the private sector, which include in-kind contributions, like drugs, he said.A large part of the voluntary contributions come with strings attached, earmarked for specific projects. A document [pdf] presented at the WHA this week shows voluntary contributions by fund and by donor for the year 2010. Many member countries called for more flexibility in the voluntary contributions.Private Sector Buying Influence at WHO?Civil society groups have been concerned by what they see as the growing influence of industry over the organisation, in particular in the set of reforms proposed by WHO Director General Margaret Chan. The reforms include the establishment of a World Health Forum, which will bring stakeholders such as civil society and industry into decisions.In a document submitted to member states during the week, a resolution was put forward relating to the agenda for reform of the WHO and estimated cost for the biennium 2010/2011, for the overall design of the programme of reform, but not its implementation.The estimated cost of that design was evaluated at about USD$1.47 million. The same document [pdf] notes that some financing “has been secured from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; some additional financing will also be requested from other sources.”Some observers, such as non-governmental Knowledge Ecology International, are anxious about the possibility that Gates has acquired undue influence over WHO matters through this financing.Bill Gates was at centre stage of the WHA opening ceremony (IPW, WHO, 17 May 2011).Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedCatherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.William New may be reached at email@example.com."Official: WHO Budget Cuts Not Likely To Impact Work On Innovation, IP" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.