[Ip-health] IP-Watch: WHO Gears Up For Reform Driven By Financial Shortfall

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jan 25 22:18:36 PST 2011


Intellectual Property Watch
25 January 2011

WHO Gears Up For Reform Driven By Financial Shortfall
  By Catherine Saez @ 4:07 pm
The Executive Board session of the World Health Organization ended  
early on Monday after a week of discussions that settled some issues  
but left some others for the next governing meeting  of the  
organisation in May, with much to do until then. The WHO is facing a  
significant gap in its budget and a programme of reforms is brewing.

The 128th Executive Board session took place from 17-24 January. The  
WHO secretariat was asked by the Board to provide reports to the  
annual May World Health Assembly (WHA) on a number of subjects, such  
as counterfeit medicines, a programme of reforms, next election of the  
director general, and research and development financing, and time  
seems short.

Margaret Chan, WHO director general, told the opening of the Board  
meeting that the agency is under-funded, and according to the  
implementation of the programme budget 2010-2011 [pdf], “the best-case  
scenario presents a US$ 200 million difference between projected  
income and expenditure, a worst-case scenario presents an equally  
possible shortfall of up to US$ 600 million.”

The budget summary shows concern about distribution of funds across  
WHO programmes, with many funds earmarked for specific activities.  
Donor countries have increasingly targeted their spending toward  
results in their own interest, leaving some basic public interest  
needs wanting.

According to the draft proposed programme budget for 2012-2013 [pdf]  
to be approved at the WHA, US$ 4.8 billion is needed to run all the  
activities covered by the organisation, showing an increase of US$ 264  
million compared with the approved budget for 2010-2011 due to  
“adjusting the Special programmes and collaborative arrangements and  
outbreak and crisis response budgets to the realities of their funding  
and implementation.” The WHO fiscal year is aligned with the calendar  

In a summary of Chan’s concluding remarks [pdf] on the future of  
financing of WHO dated 22 January, she said discussions on the subject  
had “provided an outline of our collective vision for the future of  
WHO.” She recalled WHO’s role as the “directing and coordinating  
authority on international health work.”

This vision, she said, “must be worked out practically, through a  
programme of reform that I will present to the WHA in May 2011.”

Chan described three elements of the reform programme. The first one  
is a plan for strengthening WHO’s central role in global health  
governance, including a multi-stakeholder forum. Second is a  
systematic objective priority-setting, with “a financing model that  
ensures the  core functions are adequately funded.” The third one is a  
“detailed plan for managerial reform in WHO,” including a results- 
based planning framework, a roadmap for implementation, and a plan of  
action for “enhancing accountability and transparency” with a  
mechanism for independent evaluation.

The vision also included a revised human resources strategy  
“facilitating recruitment of high quality, competent, experienced  
staff to provide high quality service to member states.” Chan said she  
would present plans to the upcoming WHA after an “extensive process of  
consultation with member states, staff and other partners.”

Election Process of Future DG

The upcoming election of the WHO director general in 2012 brought on  
the subject of geographical rotation favoured by some countries.  
Previous directors have come from only three of the six regions of the  
WHO. Burundi, on behalf of the African region, submitted a draft  
resolution on the principle of geographical rotation but this  
principle was described by some countries as posing a danger of  
overriding more important selection criteria such as expertise and  
experience. A drafting group was set up to try to find consensus and a  
draft a resolution before the end of the Board session (IPW, WHO, 18  
January 2011).

On the last day of the Board meeting, the chair of the working group,  
A.J. Mohamed of Oman, reported that a consensus had been found. The  
draft resolution [pdf] approved by the Board recognised that “due  
regard should be paid to the importance of recruiting future Directors- 
General on as wide a geographical basis a possible from Member States  
of the six regions of the WHO.” It was decided to establish a working  
group on the process and methods of the election of the DG of the WHO,  
open to all member states.

Burundi on behalf of the African region said that the draft resolution  
“was not perfect” but was an opening for a methodological analysis of  
this issue. The European Union and China said they welcomed a balanced  
resolution. Most countries which took the floor, such as the United  
States, Canada, Yemen, Barbados, and Burundi said they wished to take  
part in the working group, which should submit an interim report at  
the WHA in May, and a final report, including recommendations at the  
130th session of the Executive Board in January 2012.

First Global Ministerial Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases

Delegates also discussed the prevention and control of non- 
communicable diseases and Barbados submitted a draft resolution [pdf]  
cosponsored by New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation and  
Trinidad and Tobago on 24 January to which Bangladesh added some text.

According to sources, some delegations said the text was submitted too  
late to be adequately discussed and the issue was left to be addressed  
at the WHA. Bangladesh’s additions were mainly about access to  
affordable diagnostic tools and medical products, and to “develop and  
implement legal and policy tools, as appropriate, to ensure access to  
affordable care and treatment.”

Russia will be co organising with the WHO the first global ministerial  
conference on non-communicable diseases and healthy lifestyles in  
Moscow on 28-29 April.

Patents at Heart of WHO-WIPO-WTO Symposium

On 18 February, a joint technical symposium will be organised by the  
WHO, World Intellectual Property Organization and World Trade  
Organization, hosted at the WHO.

The focus of this second joint symposium will be the importance of  
patent information for public health related to research priorities  
and strategies, medicines procurement, and technology transfer to  
improve access to medicines.

The event will congregate speakers from the three agencies,  
institutions, and panellists from the generics industry, the research- 
based industry, procurement agencies, and patent offices. The  
symposium aims to identify information gaps, highlight the importance  
of patent information access for access to medicines, and “show how  
patent information can be used in determining the freedom to operate  
for improving access to medicines.”


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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