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WHO travel to support programme work

News release

Travel is an essential aspect of WHO’s global health work – convening experts for collective decision-making on health interventions or traveling experts anywhere in the world that requires technical assistance for global health. WHO’s travel expenditure in calendar year 2015 was US$ 234 million, and in calendar year 2016 was US$ 200 million - a reduction of 14%.

Less than half of these costs are for staff travel – nearly 60% is spent on travel of external experts to support countries, and for representatives of Member States to travel to technical meetings and sessions of WHO governing bodies.

WHO staff travel covers a diverse range of activities: for example, assessing countries’ emergency preparedness, implementing vaccine campaigns, training Member States’ health care workforce, and strengthening Organizational management.

WHO has clear travel policies, recently strengthened by Director-General Margaret Chan’s request for a policy prohibiting first class travel for all of WHO, regardless of position or grade. Business class travel is permitted only for official travel over 9 hours. In addition, per diems for all WHO-funded travel conform to UN rates.

The Director-General strictly abides by WHO’s travel policies. She does not travel first class. She receives a standard per diem entitlement at UN rates. For example, on recent travel to Guinea, the Director-General’s overnight stay cost the same as all other WHO travellers – €212 – and well within UN per diem rates. On some visits, the Director-General is hosted by a Member State. In those cases; her accommodation is provided by the hosting nation at no cost to WHO. When that occurs, she receives no per diem.

WHO is always looking for ways to reduce travel costs. Overall compliance with WHO’s travel policy is high, and improving each year. As an example, to-date in 2017, only 20% of business class tickets were purchased less than 14 days before travel (emergency travel often requires booking within the 14 day rule, and can be permitted with appropriate review). This is a marked improvement on the 31% during the same period in 2016 and 39% in 2015.

For more information, please contact:

Christian Lindmeier
Communications Officer
Mobile: +41 79 500 6552
Email: lindmeierch@who.int