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    WHO Executive Board Concludes After ‘Unpredecented’ Workload

    Published on 30 January 2013 @ 1:02 am

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan (Photo Credit: WHO)The World Health Assembly’s rotating Executive Board meets twice a year, and on 29 January concluded its 132nd meeting with what the WHO director general termed an “unprecedented” amount of agenda items and documents.

    The Executive Board met from 21-29 January. All documents from the meeting are here.

    The agenda was loaded with heavy issues. WHO Director General Margaret Chan, who alternately explained, sang, and cried during the week, concluded the meeting by saying it had been an unprecedented session, with an unprecedented number of items (nearly 60), an unprecedented amount of documents to read (over 1,000 pages), and a huge turnout for a Board meeting, with 885 people on the first day.

    She said this is being read as a sign of the interest in the WHO. And while there were many agreements during the week, Chan said, “we need to do better in the future,” particularly with regard to a sticky reform process at the UN agency.

    One of the reasons the WHO has such a full agenda is that it has standing administrative issues (including updated rules on election of the director general and program and budget), longstanding policy initiatives, as well as new initiatives, such as the global vaccine action plan and a plan for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs, like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases). But pressure also was on member states to work on WHO reform, finding a balance on how much to micro-manage the WHO’s affairs, especially as it is seeking room to manoeuvre to gain financial viability. The majority of WHO’s funding is earmarked, according to sources, leading to restrictions on its say in how it is spent. But member states also want transparency.

    World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan (Photo Credit: WHO)

    World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan (Photo Credit: WHO)

    When Chan heard a European proposal to amend changes to WHO financial rules, she broke into tears, sobbing, “The bottom line is, membership does not trust the secretariat.” She chastised them for controlling a budget that is only on paper. “When you approve the budget in May, that’s not real money,” she said. “You’re kidding yourself.”

    “I have ten seatbelts on me,” she continued. “I cannot move an inch.” Australia came to her aid, pushing others to “show flexibility” and accept the document with a few minor edits, on the notion that they can change it later if they don’t like it.

    A Brazilian delegate cheered things up later when it referred to its neighbour, Argentina, and sang back to Chan: “Don’t cry for us, Doctor DG, the truth is we never left you. We re-elected you, and will give you money. We do believe in you, and trust you fully.”

    Then after a break, Europe came back and offered a softened amendment.

    Outcomes

    But despite the range of emotions, most of the long days were spent grinding through issue after issue. Below are a few items related to issues of innovation, intellectual property, and R&D.

    One of the more strenuous topics was WHO reform, which was conducted mostly in closed, informal sessions, and is tied to heart of WHO as an independent body (IPW, WHO, 25 January 2013). The informal process was led by Australia, which has had conflict of interest problems in the past at WHO. The informals led to adoption of a set of “decision points,” or changes to WHO policy. The documents were EB132/5 and a series of additions. A small last cluster of draft additions was addressed near the end of the meeting and is available here [pdf].

    On noncommunicable diseases, the Board considered a report, EB/132/6 [pdf], of the November meeting on a global monitoring framework on the prevention and control of NCDs (IPW, 9 November 2013). They also considered an action plan (EB132/7 corr.1). They decided to hold consultations on the issue likely in March, and then pass it on to the May Health Assembly, according to sources.

    On neglected tropical diseases, those predominantly affecting developing countries and for which there is little economic incentive for research and development, the Board operated on two apparently unrelated tracks.

    First, they heatedly discussed the report from a November meeting on financing R&D for neglected diseases (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2013).

    Then they approved a modified draft resolution, EB132/R7 [pdf], on neglected tropical diseases after removing a reference to a working group on R&D for neglected diseases as “irrelevant” (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2013).

    On the issue of so-called substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products, the Board discussed and took note of a report, and agreed to set another meeting on the issue before the May World Health Assembly, as well as set up a separate group on behaviours that lead to this problem (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2013).

    On the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework, Executive Board members discussed and took note of the report, EB132/16 [pdf], from the PIP advisory group (IPW, WHO, 28 January 2013).

    The WHO has not completed negotiations with companies on a formula for contributing toward the new framework, but companies are paying to access the virus anyway. Meanwhile, one agreement was announced and more are in negotiations.

    Separately, a draft resolution, EB132.R6, was prepared on the scale of assessments, how much countries have to pay in 2014-2015. The United States is far and away the leader, at 22 percent, followed by Japan at about 10.83 percent, and Germany at 7.14 percent, and India at 6.67 percent. China was in roughly the same range as the other major European countries.

    The next Board meeting will take place on 29-30 May, immediately after the annual World Health Assembly.

    [Editor's Note: an update on polio was published here (IPW, WHO, 3 February 2013).]

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

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    1. Trade In-coherence and Antigua | International Law Info and Policy says:

      [...] international trade in specific products, such as medical products regulated by the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), and the internet by the U.N. International Telecommunication Union. (mentioned in my [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

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