Ethics and health

The Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies

The Global Health Ethics Unit at WHO provides the permanent secretariat for the Global Summit. Any government or national commission wishing to attend the next Global Summit, or to be added to the list of organizations maintained by the secretariat, should please contact the Unit at

The participating national bioethics commissions of the 9th Global Summit unanimously decided to hold the next biennial gathering in Mexico, June 2014.

Historical Background

An increasing number of nations have created official bodies to provide advice to their executive and legislative branches, and often to the general public, about bioethics. Termed "National Commissions", "Advisory Committees", and the like, they are appointed by Chief Executives, Ministers of Health, and legislatures, to analyse and offer conclusions and recommendations about current issues in bioethics, and the ethics of health more generally, especially as such issues bear on potential needs to develop national policies and to adopt legislation. In a few countries, the bodies that serve this function are appointed outside formal governmental structures and are sometimes composed of several advisory groups.

In November 1996, the then-existing national bioethics commissions met at a two-day "International Summit" in San Francisco, California, USA, at the invitation of the U.S. "National Bioethics Advisory Commission" and the French "Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique pour les Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé". Subsequent meetings of the Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies, with ever-larger numbers of national committees and international organizations represented, were held in the following venues:

  • Carthage: 26-28 September 2012
  • Singapore: 26-27 July 2010
  • Paris: 1-2 September 2008
  • Beijing: 4-5 August 2006
  • Canberra: 7-8 November 2004
  • Brasilia: 3-4 November 2002
  • London: 20-21 September 2000
  • Tokyo: 3-4 November 1998
  • San Francisco: November 1996

ONEC Database

Following the 8th Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies, the Global Health Ethics Unit at WHO started developing a database containing Opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees (ONEC). The ONEC database is hosted in WHO and is accessible through a public website. The goal of this initiative is to provide easy, free, permanent and secure access to information and opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees to other National Ethics Committees, and to the general public.


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