World Health Assembly, day 4: support for WHO reform

WHO/Pierre Albouy

On day four of the World Health Assembly, Member States discussed a set of reform proposals in three areas: programmes and priority setting, governance and management. Delegates reaffirmed support for the Director-General’s agenda, reiterating the need for comprehensive reform, and for WHO to become more effective in its normative and technical-assistance roles and to improve accountability and transparency. They encouraged greater focus on results and enhanced governance, and welcomed proposals for improving the monitoring of WHO’s work.

On programmes and priority setting, delegates discussed a draft outline of the Twelfth General Programme of Work (GPW), which will cover 2014–2019. The draft had been prepared after a meeting of Member States on programme and priority setting in February 2012, at which the participants had agreed on categories of work and criteria for setting priorities in each.

Countries expressed broad acceptance of the proposed five categories: communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases, health through the life-course, health systems, and preparedness, surveillance and response. All delegates emphasized that WHO should increase its focus on the social, economic and environmental determinants of health. There was a lengthy debate, however, on whether these determinants should be a priority cutting across all five categories, incorporated into one of them or become a sixth category of its own. The conclusion was to not add an additional category, but to amend the draft decision to request that the Secretariat show how health determinants will be given priority in the next draft of the GPW, to be reviewed at this year’s meetings of WHO regional committees.

Noncommunicable diseases

Countries adopted the decision on noncommunicable diseases, as proposed by Committee A in its entirety. Many countries expressed support for a draft implementation plan on maternal, infant and young-child nutrition.

Research and development

Following the debate from the previous day, discussions continued on how to carry forward the findings of the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG).