WHO's work on globalization, trade and health
Our work is part of WHO’s response to a changing international context and to promote an effective health dimension to economic policies.
We are working to ensure that trade and globalization work to improve the health of the poor and disadvantaged populations.
Much of our work is focused on increasing the capacity of those at the forefront of policy making, negotiation, and advocating change, whether as health specialists, needing to know about globalization and trade, or as trade specialists, needing to know about health.
WHO's work in trade and health focuses on building the knowledge base and strengthen capacity in member states and in WHO itself to recognise and act on a better understanding of the public health implications of multilateral trade agreements. These agreements present both opportunities and risks for population health.
The overall goal is to achieve greater coherence between international trade and health policy so that international and multilateral trade rules maximize health benefits and minimize health risks especially for poor and vulnerable populations.
The programme of work of the organization in this area focuses on the implications for public health of four main WTO Agreements - namely the Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and Trade in Services (GATS).
The priority areas are: access to drugs, traditional medicine knowledge and TRIPS; food safety, cross border spread of infectious diseases and SPS; health services and GATS and health norms and standards and TBT.
In each of the content areas described above the organization has four major functions: The development of WHO policy and strategic approaches to protect and promote health in the context of increasing trade liberalisation and WTO based rules. Analysis and research to better inform policy decisions, negotiations, dispute settlement Tool development and training to build capacity in the MOH to enable them to act on the risks and opportunities trade rules present for population health as well as participate in and implement relevant international standards and norms. Strategic country support in trade and health negotiations, and in analyzing, tracking and monitoring the health implications of MTAs.
In carrying out its work programme in this area, WHO works closely with international agencies such as WTO, WB, OECD and UNCTAD, major NGOs, foundations and centers of excellence worldwide.
WHO’s work on globalization and health focuses on assisting countries to assess and act on cross-border risks to public health security. Recognizing that domestic action alone will not be sufficient to ensure health locally, our work program also supports necessary collective action to address cross-border health risks and improve health outcomes.
This includes using the Global Public Goods concept. It provides a framework for assessing and resolving problems of collective action at the global level. It ‘hardens’ often ‘soft’ policy objectives through measurable ‘production functions’ quantifying costs and outcomes. It presents a coherent demonstration of the value to the rich of assisting the poor in the finance of GPGs. It provides a rationale for national health budgets to be tapped, complementing ‘traditional’ aid (an argument already used to effect in the Polio Eradication Initiative. Overall, the GPG concept offers a powerful ‘lens’ through which to analyze and promote the health of the poor, and will be an increasingly important tool for public health in an era of globalization lens of global public goods for health. There is an increasing recognition that the existing rules, institutional mechanisms, and forms of organization need to evolve to better respond to the emerging challenges of globalization and ensure that globalization benefits those currently left behind in the developing process. Consequently, Global Health Governance has been identified as an issue that needs more detailed analysis to better inform policy makers interested in shaping the future ‘architecture’ for global health.
There is an increasing recognition that the existing rules, institutional mechanisms, and forms of organization need to evolve to better respond to the emerging challenges of globalization and ensure that globalization benefits those currently left behind in the developing process. Consequently, Global Health Governance has been identified as an issue that needs more detailed analysis to better inform policy makers interested in shaping the future ‘architecture’ for global health.