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WHO's Executive Board supports reform proposals

Reforms aim to better position WHO to improve health outcomes

Note for the media

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) ended a three-day special session with Member States expressing strong support for WHO's work and reaching agreement on broad proposals for reform. The proposals aim to better position WHO to improve health outcomes, create a greater coherence in global health and exercise its leadership functions as a more efficient, effective and transparent organization.

"We organized this meeting to discuss the key elements of the proposed reforms," says Rahhal El Makkaoui, Chair of the WHO Executive Board. "Our discussions have been positive. These are ambitious reforms, designed to build on the Organization's already strong foundations and better equip it to respond to public health challenges in the 21st century."

The Board welcomed many of the proposals put forward by Member States and the Director-General, including agreement that WHO's five core areas of work should concentrate on health development, health security, strengthening health systems and institutions, generating evidence on health trends and determinants, and convening for better health.

In their regular meeting in January 2012, the Executive Board will review, among other things, a proposed mechanism to increase predictability and flexibility of financing for the Organization.

The Board emphasized the intergovernmental nature of WHO and its unique mandate as the directing and coordinating authority for work in global public health. In addition, they welcomed proposals to strengthen the governance of WHO, improve financing of the Organization, strengthen country offices, facilitate collaboration across the Organization, improve human resource policies, and increase accountability, to better measure the impact of health investments on health outcomes within countries.

The Board agreed to hold this special session at its last meeting in May 2011. Work done during the special session enables the regular January 2012 Board meeting to do the groundwork for taking specific reforms further. This will occur during the World Health Assembly’s meeting in May 2012.

Editor's note

The historical special session of the WHO Executive Board, repeatedly echoed the value of WHO's unique mandate as the directing and coordinating authority for work in international health and agreed to proposals which include:

  • developing criteria for priority setting of WHO's work in global public health;
  • engaging an increasing number of public health actors, including foundations, civil society organizations, partnerships and the private sector. The Board felt strongly that in any opportunity for engagement, WHO’s independence and integrity must be protected from undue influence by those with vested interests;
  • establishing a contingency fund for the work of WHO in public health emergencies;
  • clarifying of roles and responsibilities between the three levels of the WHO – country offices, regional offices and headquarters – to create a tightly networked, leaner and streamlined Organization;
  • developing an approach to independent evaluation.

The Board expressed full confidence in the Director-General to move some reforms forward immediately and granted her authority to take immediate action, requesting a report on results as early as January 2012.

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