Global health ethics

Research Ethics Review Committee

WHO Research Ethics Review Committee

The Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC) is a 27-member committee established and appointed by the Director-General. Its mandate is to ensure 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.

While the majority of the committee consists of WHO staff, international external individuals are also appointed as committee members.

Members bring with them valuable and extensive experience and knowledge in research in different fields, and receive appropriate training in research ethics before commencing their role within the ERC. The broad range of research expertise of Committee members, together with the ethics training, ensures that all proposals are thoroughly and fairly reviewed for ethical research conduct.

The ERC reviews and advises on research:

  • fully or partially funded by WHO
  • managed by WHO
  • in which WHO is either a partner or collaborator.

The terms of reference of the ERC are defined by the WHO Manual and are operationalized through its Rules of Procedures.

The ERC is guided in its work by the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki (1964) last updated in 2008 as well as the International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (CIOMS 2002) and the International Guidelines for Ethical Review of Epidemiological Studies (CIOMS 2009). According to these guidelines, all research involving human subjects should be carried out in accordance with the fundamental ethical principles of respect, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice.