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Opening remarks by Dr Margaret Chan at the second meeting of WHO’s financing dialogue

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Geneva, Switzerland
25 November 2013

Honourable ministers, ambassadors, colleagues in public health, partners in financing the work of WHO, our sister UN agencies, ladies and gentlemen,

A very warm welcome to all of you.

This is the second financing dialogue, and the next step in a process that began in January 2010, when WHO convened an informal consultation on the future of financing for WHO.

At that time, the world was still reeling from the shock of the 2008 financial crisis. Funds for domestic as well as international health were shrinking in many countries.

In preparing for that consultation, it was clear to me that funding must follow functions, and that changes in financing for WHO would need to be part of a larger process of reform.

That process is now well under way. Reforms implemented to date are designed to make the work of WHO more structured, more strategic, and more realistic. For example, Member States asked for a realistic budget, not an aspirational one. This year, for the first time, the Health Assembly approved a programme budget in its entirety, including voluntary contributions as well as assessed contributions.

Some reforms are already being implemented. Some required extensive consultation with Member States to establish an overarching framework for setting priorities, categories of work to guide resource allocation, and a limited set of leadership priorities to provide high-level direction. Still other reforms, including those involving financing, require more time.

Recent assessments undertaken by Member States provide independent confirmation that we are moving in the right direction. Examples include the Multilateral Aid Review, conducted by the UK government, and the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network, conducted by a group of 17 donor countries. These assessments tell us that our performance is getting better, which is what we all want to see.

And there are other issues we need to take on board. In the health sector, the financial crisis ushered in an era of unprecedented emphasis on transparency, accountability, and independent monitoring of results. Governments and other donors want evidence that their investments in WHO bring results.

We all want the financing for WHO to be more transparent. We all want financing to align better with the programme budget.

In a sense, the programme budget is a contract that binds the performance of WHO to the expectations of Member States. The obligations are a two-way street. WHO needs adequate funding to meet these expectations. In an era of accountability, donors need for WHO to reliably report on results and clearly demonstrate the impact of its work.

At a time when WHO must respond to complex and rapidly changing health needs, the Organization also needs predictable and flexible funding.

We all want to ensure that the programme budget is fully funded. Only then is it truly realistic instead of merely aspirational.

This morning, we will be showing you where we stand in the overall funding outlook for 2014–2015, indicating secured funding and funding shortfalls. This will let you see where the Organization is vulnerable.

This good news, and not-so-good news, will be followed by a session where we want to hear your ideas about what should be done.

This discussion of possible solutions, and strategies for their implementation, will continue tomorrow. Our joint efforts to find the best way forward will also benefit from moderated discussions in several specific areas.

From the beginning, we have done our utmost to make WHO reform an inclusive process. Let me thank the many Member States and non-state contributors for their enthusiastic participation in bilateral meetings and consultations held over the past several months. These meetings and consultations, together with discussions during the Regional Committees and with Geneva missions, have shaped the agenda for the next two days.

You have made it very clear that you are not interested in a talk shop or a repeat of the starting process during the June financing dialogue, no matter how god it was. You want a bold and conclusive meeting, with agreement on clear and practical steps forward. I appreciate your impatience. Quality funding is a prerequisite for efficient management of our work. We welcome concrete proposals that can be implemented quick

Ladies and gentlemen,

The PBAC chair reminded us of key actions that were agreed on at the June meeting. Progress since June is summarized in a two page report included in your folders.

Let me highlight some of this progress.

The web portal for the programme budget went live a week ago. It offers open access to data on baseline indicators, budget detail for operational planning, and the status of funding and shortfalls. This tool takes transparency a major step forward.

Scott Pendergast will give you a quick tour of the web portal in just a few minutes. This is a work in progress. Some of the financial figures will change as more information is received from Member States and other contributors and as we undertake internal verification.

Operational planning is addressing the need to reflect country-level priorities in bottom-up planning. The results of this planning process are expected to support the strategic allocation of resources in line with clearly defined country priorities. We are not there yet, but much progress has been made. This is a transitional budget. Further improvements will be made in the next planning cycle

In June, we promised that a broad discussion would continue. This has happened, at all Regional Committees and during more than 20 meetings, consultations, and briefings. As I said, the views expressed by participants have shaped the agenda for this dialogue.

Tomorrow, you will hear more about what is being done to coordinate resource mobilization.

As requested, work to broaden the base of contributors has initially focused on Member States. A second phase will explore the possible role of non-Member States, including philanthropic foundations.

Finally, the June meeting asked me to provide an indication of how assessed contributions can be used strategically to ensure the budget is fully funded. This is part of my mandate.

Of the roughly $929 million in assessed contributions available to WHO, I have decided, in consultation with the Regional Directors, to allocate about 80%, or $750 million, towards full funding of the 2014–2015 programme budget. Doing so will ensure that each category of work has funding for operational continuity at the beginning of the biennium.

The remaining amount will be allocated as funds become available, aiming to progressively achieve full funding of all the Organization’s planned outputs. This will be done in full consultation with the Regional Directors.

I know you have high expectations for the outcome of this meeting, and will be listening attentively to your views and guidance.

Thank you.

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