Global health ethics

Upcoming scoping meetings on the Ethics of Vector-Borne Diseases and Ageing

Mosquito aedes aegypti
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On 23 and 24 February 2017, a scoping meeting will lay the groundwork for a guidance document on ethical issues in vector-borne diseases. On 18 March, group of experts will explore the ethics of Ageing. The goal is to start the development of an ethical framework that will best respond to the challenges of ageing and health, address ageism, strengthen the rights-based agenda for improving the health of the ageing population, and support policy makers in developing and implementing strategies for healthy ageing.

New guidance document: Managing Ethical Issues in Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Infectious disease outbreaks are frequently characterized by scientific uncertainty, social and institutional disruption, and an overall climate of fear and distrust. Policy makers and public health professionals may be forced to weigh and prioritize potentially competing ethical values in the face of severe time and resource constraints. This document seeks to assist policy-makers, health care providers, researchers, and others prepare for outbreak situations by anticipating and preparing for the critical ethical issues likely to arise.

Developing guidelines for public health surveillance

Health workers
WHO/Stephane Saporito

Surveillance is one of the most fundamental activities of public health, involving different areas and practices such as non-communicable disease registers, outbreak investigations, and health systems research. Public health surveillance raises multiple ethical issues concerning, among others, the use/non-use of informed consent or the provision/non-provision of standards of care.
WHO has launched a project to develop WHO Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance, and for this purpose established an international Guideline Development Group. After several expert meetings have taken place the guidelines are expected to be published in early 2017.

12th Global Summit, 22-24 March 2018, Dakar, Senegal

Dakar Senegal - Looking North
Creative commons/J Attaway

The Steering Committee for the 12th biennial Summit welcomes all National Ethics Committees (NECs) to Dakar, Senegal from 22-24 March 2018.

The last summit in Berlin brought together representatives of NECs of 83 countries. The Berlin Summit theme: “Global Health, Global Ethics, Global Justice”, set the stage for plenary discussions on emerging and converging technologies, bioethical policies and law and raising social awareness on bioethical issues.


About ethics and health

The Global Health Ethics Unit provides a focal point for the examination of ethical issues raised by activities throughout the Organization. The unit also supports Member States in addressing ethical issues that arise in their own countries. This includes a range of global bioethics topics; from public health surveillance to developments in genomics, and from research with human beings to fair access to health services.

This unit’s work is particularly important in the context of contemporary health challenges and raises and addresses difficult questions in areas such as resource allocation, new technologies, decision-making in clinical care and public health.

WHO Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC)

The ERC ensures that WHO only supports research of the highest ethical standards. The ERC reviews all research projects, involving human participants supported either financially or technically by WHO.


Global Health Ethics Unit
Department of Information, Evidence and Research
World Health Organization
20, Avenue Appia
CH-1211 Genève 27