Dear GHC Members,
The World Health Organization (WHO)’s 154th Executive Board Meeting (EB154) has officially come to a close. We would like to begin by thanking all Global Health Council (GHC) members and partners for collaborating with us on constituency and individual statements. Below is a summary of discussions and decisions from GHC’s EB154 priority topic areas, which included:
- Agenda Item 6: Universal Health Coverage
- Agenda Item 14: WHO’s work in health emergencies
- Agenda Item 22: Climate change, pollution and health
- Agenda Item 24.2: Draft fourteenth general programme of work
On the whole, discussions and negotiations on a range of issues at EB154 were mired in geopolitical tensions and cultural sensitivities, hampering the Executive Board’s ability to make decisions on a number of agenda items. More details on how these tensions affected GHC’s priority topic areas, and what this means for the upcoming 77th World Health Assembly (WHA77) can be found below.
Dr. Tedros’ Opening Remarks
During his opening remarks, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ announced the 14th General Programme of Work (GPW14)’s main focus areas: Healthy populations, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and Pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPPR). Dr. Tedros also urged Member States to seize three historic opportunities, including: Shaping the future of WHO through the upcoming Investment Round, finalizing the GPW14, and building consensus on a pandemic agreement.
Discussions and Outcomes of GHC Priority Topic Areas
Agenda Item 6: Universal Health Coverage
For Agenda Item 6, GHC delivered an individual statement focused on the need for Member States to support the Social Participation Resolution, introduced by Thailand and Slovenia, to mainstream civil society and other stakeholder’s engagement in global health policy and address the health inequities faced by populations most left behind. Under this agenda item, Member States highlighted the need to:
- Strengthen Primary Health Care (PHC) as a foundation for UHC;
- Focus on UHC, as it is all-encompassing and includes other priority issues such as the workforce, financing, access, quality, coverage, etc.;
- Support Thailand and Slovenia’s social participation resolution to ensure health systems are responsive and equitable;
- Invest in digital technologies to reach more people;
- Increase the supply of paid and properly trained workforce to address “brain drain;” and
- Address the challenge of debt accumulation, because in many countries it represents 30% of GDP, and will soon increase to 60% in the coming years.
Next steps: Member States will continue to deliberate the social participation resolution in the intersessional period and, once final, will formally present the resolution for a decision at WHA77.
Agenda Item 14: WHO’s work in health emergencies
For Agenda Item 14, GHC led and delivered a constituency statement on WHO’s work in health emergencies. The statement focused on the need for complementarity in the PPPR system, financing the global health architecture for PPPR, and investing in robust and resilient health systems. Member State discussions touched on topics, such as:
- The conflict in Gaza and the need for a comprehensive plan for how WHO addresses these types of conflicts;
- The need to protect the health workforce from violence and ensure ethical international recruitment and retention;
- Timely and efficient responses to natural disasters;
- Ensuring civil society engagement in the global health architecture for PPPR;
- Urgency for building consensus around the pandemic agreement and IHR amendments by May 2024; and
- Support for Dr. Tedros’ call for $1.5 billion to support global health emergencies this year.
Next steps: Although the pandemic agreement was not formally on the agenda for EB154, the co-chairs of both the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) negotiating the pandemic agreement and the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR) provided a joint briefing for Member States at the beginning of the week. This briefing provided no new substantive information on the negotiations. In discussions on WHO’s work in health emergencies, both Member States and the WHO Secretariat expressed concern about missing the deadline of May 2024 for these negotiations and what the implications of missing the deadline would be.
Agenda Item 22: Climate change, pollution and health
Related to Agenda Item 22, GHC gave an individual statement calling on Member States to support the forthcoming resolution on climate change and health resolution and recommend it move forward for adoption at WHA77, ensuring that the final text is as robust and ambitious as possible.
Many Member States commended WHO’s technical assistance related to climate and health, such as its initiative known as the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH), as well as the integration of climate into GPW14. However, some Member States expressed concern about WHO’s expanding mandate.
Next steps: Member States will continue to deliberate the climate change and health resolution in the intersessional period and, once final, will formally present the resolution for a decision at WHA77. Areas that require continued negotiation include gender, research, and a potential WHO global plan of action.
Agenda Item 24.2: Draft fourteenth general programme of work
For Agenda Item 24.2, GHC led and delivered a constituency statement on GPW14, which focused on the need to continue engaging with civil society and key stakeholders on global health planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and support for the social participation resolution. GHC also highlighted the need for financing the GPW14 for it to be successful and monitoring progress by the routine collection and analysis of disaggregated data. Under this agenda item, Member States highlighted the need to:
- Ensure the goals of the GPW14 are supported by sustainable financing;
- Develop a transparent M&E framework that would not overburden Member States, but better monitor progress toward UHC;
- Incorporate lessons learned from GPW13 into the development of GPW14; and
- Ensure the GPW14 emphasizes and addresses health equity.
Next steps: Some countries expressed concerns about “controversial wording,” mostly related to gender, within the context of GPW14 and other pending resolutions. GHC will continue to follow these negotiations and participate in civil society consultations to advocate for strong language around gender and sexual reproductive health rights.
NSA Engagement at EB154
During EB154, the Executive Board and non-Board members discussed the decision to admit the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) as an NSA in official relations with WHO. Due to CRR’s organizational focus, the Program Budget and Administration Commission (PBAC) did not provide a recommendation for admitting the organization as an NSA and left the decision up to the board, which is unprecedented. This demonstrates the shrinking civil society space that even FENSA, WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors, has not been able to address over the years. GHC will be writing more on this topic in the coming days.
Looking Ahead to WHA77
WHA77 will take place from May 27 – June 1 in Geneva, Switzerland. A provisional agenda for this meeting is available but is subject to change. As we move closer to May, please look out for the following information related to WHA77:
- Sign-up email with instructions on how to register to be part of the GHC delegation to WHA77;
- Webinar invitation at which GHC will share details about WHA77 (key documents, priorities, official statements, side events, etc.;
- Social media toolkit that can be used in the lead-up, during, and after WHA77 on key priority areas.