Longest, Biggest World Health Assembly Ever Set To Open With Election, Budget Topping Agenda 12/05/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 4 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)The 70th World Health Assembly opening in a few days is the WHA of superlatives, according to a World Health Organization’s official. It is the longest assembly ever, with nine days of meeting, the largest number delegates, of agenda items, and of documents. It is also when the new WHO new director general will be elected, and when the WHO next budget is expected to be approved. Timothy Armstrong, director of the WHO Department of Governing Bodies (on right) Timothy Armstrong, director of the WHO Department of Governing Bodies, gave an introduction to the WHA during a press briefing today, which ended up being largely focused on the election process and why Taiwan has not been invited this year, a first since 2009. The 70th WHA is taking place from 22 – 31 May. According to Armstrong, the 70th edition of the WHA is “extremely special and important,” because of the nature of the agenda. With 9 days of meeting, over 80 items on the agenda [pdf], some 4,000 delegates, and over 1,000 pages of documents, the 70th WHA is unique in several ways, he said. The WHA will elect the new director general of the WHO, choosing between Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, who is rumoured to be the favourite, David Nabarro of the United Kingdom, and Sania Nishtar of Pakistan. It is the first time, Armstrong said, that there is more than one candidate at the WHA for the post of WHO director general. A WHO press officer told Intellectual Property Watch later that it is the first time three candidates were put forward by the WHO Executive Board, because the voting rules have changed since the last election. The Board used to propose only one candidate to be elected to the WHA. The president of the assembly is expected to be nominated from the European region, he said. The election process raised several questions from journalists. Armstrong said the 15 minute statements by the three candidates on 23 May would be publicly webcast, as per a request by member states. After this the public webcast will be shut off, he said, so that the voting process can begin. The voting process is explained in a WHA document [pdf] and is as follows: “(a) If in the first ballot a candidate obtains a two thirds majority or more of the Members present and voting, this will be considered a clear and strong majority and he or she will be appointed Director-General. If no candidate obtains the required majority, the candidate having received the least number of votes shall be eliminated. If two candidates tie for the least number of votes, a separate ballot shall be held between them and the candidate receiving the least number of votes shall be eliminated. (b) In the subsequent ballot, a candidate will be appointed Director-General if he or she obtains a two thirds majority or more of the Members present and voting which will be considered a clear and strong majority. (c) If no candidate receives the majority indicated in subparagraph (b), a candidate will be appointed Director-General if he or she receives in the subsequent ballot a majority of the Member States of the World Health Organization or more, which will be considered a clear and strong majority. On the assumption that the membership of the Organization remains at 194, the majority required will thus be 98.4 (d) If no candidate receives the majority indicated in subparagraph (c), a candidate will be appointed Director-General if he or she receives in the subsequent ballot a majority of the Members present and voting, which will be considered a clear and strong majority. There is no saying how long the voting process will be, but the new director general is expected to be announced on 23 May, the WHO said during the briefing. No official information will be coming out the room (United Nations Assembly Hall) between rounds of voting, Armstrong said. Delegates’ phones are expected to be switched off, he said, raising doubt among the journalists that high-level country representatives would switch off their phones for hours, and expressing regrets that no intermediary voting results will be available. The new director general will take office on 1 July. Taiwan Not Invited Armstrong said the Taiwanese delegation has not been invited to the WHA this year, an unprecedented situation since 2009, he said. The WHO director general was not in a position to issue an invitation to Taiwan, he said. Taiwan, or Chinese Taipei, is officially part of China, but has been invited since 2009 as an observer delegation. Since 2009 there was a special arrangement enabling Taiwan to participate as an observer, Armstrong said. But he did not mention the reason that is preventing the usual arrangement this year. Pressed by journalists to say if China is preventing Taiwan from participating in the WHA, Armstrong said it was not his understanding that China did so, and added that discussions were still ongoing, and the issue might be discussed at the WHA if member states raise it. The WHO continues to be actively involved with Taiwanese health officials, who continue to participate in technical meetings, he said. A 9 May story by Reuters says that Taiwan will still send a delegation to the WHA with or without an invitation. According to a Taiwanese source, China is preventing Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. WHO Director General Margaret Chan is from China (Hong Kong). Budget, Access to Medicines, Pandemics The long agenda of the WHA includes many issues, including: the 2018/2019 budget; antimicrobial resistance; research and development for potentially epidemic diseases; and the review of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework. It also includes the global shortage of, and access to, medicines and vaccines, under which it is expected that the report of the 2016 UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines will be discussed. Armstrong said that no delegation has put forward a resolution on access to medicines for the consideration of the WHA yet. Other subjects expected to be discussed at the WHA are the evaluation and review of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property; the follow-up of the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination; and the member State mechanism on substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products. Also on the agenda are: the Global Vaccine Action Plan; the preparation for the third High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases to be held in 2018; WHO engagement with non-state actors; and a potential agreement on a resolution on cancer drug, in particular prices. Intellectual Property Watch will publish a full preview guide to issues at the WHA next week. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Longest, Biggest World Health Assembly Ever Set To Open With Election, Budget Topping Agenda" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.