World Health Assembly, closing: 21 resolutions adopted during the week

WHO/Pierre Albouy

The Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly concluded on 26 May after adopting 21 resolutions on a broad range of health issues including: early marriages and pregnancies, humanitarian emergencies, the International Health Regulations, mass gatherings, the Millennium Development Goals, noncommunicable diseases, occupied Palestinian territory, pandemic influenza preparedness, intensification of the global polio eradication initiative, research and development, schistosomiasis, the social determinants of health and substandard/spurious/falsely labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products.

The six days of discussions involved nearly 3000 delegates, including health ministers and senior health officials from WHO’s 194 Member States, and representatives of civil-society organizations and other stakeholders.

Financing research and development

The Health Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution on the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination in the form presented by the drafting group.

Global mass gatherings

Committee A considered and approved the Secretariat’s report, “Global mass gatherings: implications and opportunities for global health security”. Delegates from countries that had recently or regularly hosted such gatherings spearheaded the discussion, and the Committee agreed on the need for countries to exchange experience to ensure adequate preparedness and management.

WHO reform

Committee A approved the decision on WHO reform. Member States welcomed programmatic reforms and emphasized the need to include health determinants and equity in the Twelfth General Programme of Work (GPW) and the proposed programme budget.

As to governance reforms, Member States agreed to maintain the present schedule of governing-body meetings, but to revisit the topic at the January 2013 meeting of the Executive Board. They also:

  • asked the Secretariat to present a feasibility study on the possibility of shifting the financial year;
  • endorsed proposals to enhance alignment between sessions of the regional committees and the Executive Board, increase harmonization across the regional committees and streamline decision-making in governing-body meetings;
  • requested the Director-General to propose options for possible changes to the rules of procedure, to limit the number of agenda items and resolutions coming before governing bodies; and
  • requested draft policy papers on WHO’s engagement with nongovernmental organizations and its relationships with private commercial entities, and a report on WHO’s arrangements for hosting health partnerships and proposals for harmonizing work with hosted partnerships.

Member States noted progress made in many areas of managerial reform, such as the establishment of an ethics office, and requested that the Director-General further develop proposals to increase the transparency, predictability and flexibility of WHO’s financing. They also requested that a framework be developed for monitoring progress in the implementation of WHO reform.

Early marriages and pregnancies

Many countries expressed strong support for a report that explored the links between early marriages and pregnancies and the progress made towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals. It was agreed to adapt the report’s findings to national and regional contexts.

Partnerships and collaboration

Committee B (covering financial and management issues) approved an agreement between the African Union and WHO. It also welcomed a report on collaboration within the United Nations system and with other intergovernmental organizations, and countries stressed the importance of working within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and multidonor trust funds at the country level to ensure the efficient use of resources.

Director-General elections

Committee B approved a draft resolution on the election of the WHO Director-General, including the key point that equitable geographical representation should be an overarching consideration in the nomination and appointment process.

Nutrition

Committee A continued discussions on a draft comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and agreed that further informal consultation with Member States was needed.

Other issues

Committee A discussed and approved resolutions on the Millennium Development Goals and on the social determinants of health.

In Committee B, all delegations supported and reaffirmed WHO’s role as leader of the health cluster for humanitarian aid during crises. After a lengthy debate on substandard/spurious/falsely labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products, the Committee supported the adoption of the resolution without amendment. It also agreed on a resolution on schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms.