WHA Policy Scrum on U.S. Leadership and Engagement at WHA70

On April 25, Global Health Council hosted a critical discussion on the U.S. government’s priorities at the Seventieth World Health Assembly (WHA70). The one-hour session, held via webinar, was the second in a series of WHA Policy Scrums organized by GHC in preparation for WHA70.

We were honored to have special guest speakers with strong government backgrounds and experience at WHA participate in our webinar and share their insights on the best way for civil society to engage at WHA70.

On behalf of GHC’s members, we would like to thank Peter Mamacos, Director of Multilateral Relations, Office of Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Jimmy Kolker, former Assistant Secretary of Global Affairs at HHS; and Matt Robinson, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) and PATH for participating in an informative discussion.



Who will be on the U.S. Delegation to WHA70?

A formal delegate list has not yet been finalized, but we received confirmation that HHS Secretary Tom Price will be in attendance, along with several other senior people across the U.S. government.

What are the U.S. government’s most critical areas of interest on the WHA Agenda?

The WHO Director General Election: The U.S. government has met with all the candidates and listened to their views. While the government cannot discuss or comment on who it intends to vote, Peter Mamacos invited civil society to share its input on the different candidates. You send your comments for Peter and his team to events@globalhealth.org.

WHO Funding: U.S. budget cuts, and the impact this will have on WHO funding, will be high on the priority list. The U.S. government has been mindful of ongoing WHO reforms while contemplating these budget cuts, and some agencies may take deeper cuts than others.

Access to Medicines: There are several medicine resolutions that have been tabled for discussion at WHA70. The U.S. government has concerns over the narrowness of the mandate on access to medicines.  View the U.S. government’s statement following the panel discussion on access to medicines held in Geneva, Switzerland on March 8.

The UN Resolution on Migrants: The U.S. government looks forward to holding a vigorous discussion on the migration crisis and addressing the gaps in emergency response and how to better support humanitarian efforts.

Health Research & Development: An R&D blueprint for potentially epidemic diseases and the newly launched Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative are priority issues. A review of Joint External Evaluations and ongoing efforts to track emerging threats like H7 and H9 viruses are also critical.

Cancer Prevention and Control: Preparations are underway for the 2018 United Nations High-Level meeting on NCDs and will be explored further at WHA70.

Nutrition Agenda Items: The Report from the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) is of primary interest to the U.S. government.

*Note: This list is by no means exhaustive, and does not indicate all U.S. government priorities. Instead, it serves as a list of highlighted issues. Again, if there is an item that you would like to raise to the U.S. government, please email events@globalhealth.org.

Final Thoughts:

The U.S. government would like to hear civil society’s thoughts on agenda items for 2017. HHS appreciates our outreach and the agency welcomes civil society representatives to participate in the U.S. government WHA stakeholder listening session on May 5. RSVP is currently closed. Please contact OGA.RSVP@hhs.gov for more details about this event.

Secretary Price will give an opening statement on behalf of the U.S. delegation at WHA. We should try to utilize our HHS contacts to make contributions to that statement if there are important issues we would like the secretary to raise.

One of the most influential things that we can do at this moment, as civil society representatives, is to ask the U.S. government to hold WHO to its commitments. At the U.S. government WHA stakeholder listening session on May 5, let’s talk about what WHO has committed to doing, and how the agency has fallen short.

WHA side-events are an important platform for us all. Let’s try and use them to build the constituency around subjects that are getting less attention, even if we can’t get government and regional representatives to attend.

During WHA, let us try to connect with mid-level WHO staff at committee meetings and sidebar meetings. They could be useful resources. Let us also engage in essential corridor discussions during the drafting of resolutions.

Most importantly, let us not be blinded by talks of U.S. budget cuts, but rather continue to uphold our role as advocates and emphasize the issues that matter to us. Despite the obstacles we face, we can still get our points across and accomplish great results.

GHC will host its final WHA Policy Scrum and New Delegate Webinar on May 9. This scrum will focus on: final preparations for WHA; communications before and during the meeting, and what GHC and its member/partners plan to report out on. Moreover, the last half-hour of the scrum will be dedicated to focusing on logistics for new WHA delegates. Register today!