Emergencies, Cervical Cancer, IP & Innovation Among Highlights Of Member State Consultations Ahead Of WHO Executive Board

Ahead of the upcoming WHO Executive Board meeting 3-8 February, WHO has launched a series of informal consultations this week with member state representatives on key issues that will be coming before the governing body – and ultimately the May meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA). The detailed consultation agenda, published on the WHO website, covers nearly a dozen topics rangng from proposed new WHA resolutions on strengthening preparedness for health emergencies and the elimination of cervival cancer to initiatives on food safety and “people-centered” eye-care and blindness prevention.

WHO Executive Board meeting, 2019

A new global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property is another focus of the consultations, with several meetings scheduled to discuss the strategy, which touches on oft-controversial issues around medicines accesss and affordability.  Other member state consultations will review the status of action plans and initiatives on vaccines, road safety, and  the current status of global polio eradication.

There will be a least two sessions discussing WHO’s policies on engagement with so-called “non-state actors”, referring to NGOs and the private sector. This will include a special session devoted to the rules governing their participation in meetings of WHO governing bodies, such as the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly.  WHO has a long roster of civil society actors that are recognized as being in “official relations” with the agency, and are therefore allowed to attend key meetings as observers, may then request to speak on issues as they are debated.

However, last year, WHO’s administration proposed that those rules be tightened so that diverse civil society representatives that are aligned on a given issue might present a set of consolidated remarks, to avoid repetition and save time at key meetings, which often drag into overtime, running late at night and on the weekends. As an alternative, a separate conference or meeting could be scheduled specifically between member states and recognized civil society representatives every year, WHO has suggested.

The closed-door consultations, which began yesterday, will continue throught the end of the month and are open only to WHO member state representatives.   The complete agenda of the upcoming  EB meeting, which is streamed publicly, covers a much broader array of topics.  These include reviews and updates of initiatives planned or underway on specific diseases, such as ending tuberculosis; combatting epilepsy; flu preparedness; and the next phase of action on neglected tropical diseases, as well as cross-cutting initiatives in digital health; healthy ageing; non-communicable diseases; maternal and infant nutrition.  Finally, the EB will discuss the planned follow-up to the UN High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in September 2019, an ambitious global  initiative to insure that everyone worldwide can access quality healthcare by 2030, which is the flagship issue of WHO’s current administration.

The EB is comprised of the designated representatives of 34 member states; each member state is elected by the World Health Assembly to serve on the EB for a three year term. The EB’s annotated provisional agenda is available online here.

Image Credits: William New.