WHO Board Backs Reform Plan For UN Agency

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The UN World Health Organization Executive Board this week approved a set of proposals for reform put forward by WHO Director General Margaret Chan and member states, authorising her to take immediate action. The WHO is undergoing a major reform process fueled by a funding shortage and changes in the global public health structure.

The board met in a special session from 1-3 November. They will reconvene for their regular meeting in January, and there will review a “proposed mechanism to increase predictability and flexibility of financing for the organization,” according to a WHO press release.

Board members also agreed that WHO’s five core areas of work should focus on: health development, health security, strengthening health systems and institutions, generating evidence on health trends and determinants, and convening for better health.

The special session was agreed at the last annual World Health Assembly meeting in May (IPW, WHO, 24 May 2011).

According to the WHO secretariat, the board “repeatedly echoed the value of WHO’s unique mandate as the directing and coordinating authority for work in international health and agreed to proposals.”

The proposals include, as stated by the WHO:

“1. developing criteria for priority setting of WHO’s work in global public health;

2. how to engage an increasing number of public health actors, including foundations, civil society organizations, partnerships and the private sector. The Board felt strongly that in any opportunity for engagement, WHO’s independence and integrity must be protected from undue influence by those with vested interests;

3. establishment of a contingency fund for the work of WHO in public health emergencies;

4. clarification of roles and responsibilities between the three levels of the WHO – country offices, regional offices and headquarters – to create a tightly networked, leaner and streamlined Organization;

5. development of an approach to independent evaluation.”

The WHO press release added that the Board “expressed full confidence in the Director-General to move some reforms forward immediately and granted her authority to take immediate action, requesting a report on results as early as January 2012.”

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