World Health Assembly (WHA)

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the  Executive Board. 

  • The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the forum through which the World Health  Organization (WHO) is governed by its 194 member states. It is the world's highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states. 
  • The members of the WHA generally meet every year in May in Geneva at the Palace of  Nations, the location of WHO Headquarters.  
  • The main tasks of the WHA are to decide major policy questions, as well as to approve the WHO work programme and budget and elect its Director-General (every fifth year) and annually to elect ten members to renew part of its Executive Board
  • The Health Assembly meets in regular annual session and sometimes in special sessions as well. 
  • The term lasts for 5 years, and Directors-General are typically appointed in May when  the Assembly meets 

FUNCTIONS 

Its main functions are:

  • To determine the policies of the Organization,  
  • Supervise financial policies,  
  • And review  
  • And approve of the proposed programme budget.  

MEMBERS, OBSERVERS AND RULES 

  • The original membership of the WHA, at the first assembly held in 1948, numbered 55  member states. 
  • The WHA has, currently, 194 member states  
  • In addition, six agencies have observer status at the WHA – the Vatican, the Palestinian  Authority, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the International Committee of the  Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the South Centre organization, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union 
  • The Assembly is governed by Rules of Procedure of the World Health Assembly; agenda items are set by the General Committee of the Assembly, a group of 25 individuals that includes the President and subcommittee chairs, and a number of delegates elected by the Assembly previous. 
  • The Department of Health of the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, was invited on 28 April 2009 to participate in the WHA 2009 as an observer for the first time since losing its China seat in United Nations to the People's Republic of China in 1971. The invitation was extended to "the Department of Health, Chinese Taipei." Since 2017, it has been completely excluded from the WHA  

EXECUTIVE BOARD 

  • Each year, the WHA elects members from among its ranks to renew the Executive Board  (EB).  
  • This body is governed in Chapter VI, Articles 24 through 29, of the Constitution of the  WHO.  
  • The EB must have an equitable geographic distribution, and "shall be elected for three years and may be re-elected... The Board shall meet at least twice a year and shall  determine the place of each meeting."  
  • This is invariably chosen (by consensus) to be Geneva.  
  • A current list of members on the Executive Board can be derived through consultation  of the WHA #Annual Assemblies 

HOW WHA TAKES PLACE? 

  • The WHA takes place every year in the month of May at the United Nations in Geneva,  Switzerland. It is attended by delegations from all 194 WHO Member States. Every year  WHA comes up with new health resolutions. 
  • Until now (June 2019), WHA is held up 72 times with challenging resolutions  
  • The 72nd WHA was held on 20-28th May 2019. 

Two main types of meeting held in WHA each with a different purpose: 

  • Committees meet to debate technical and health matters (Committee A), and financial  and management issues (Committee B) and approve the texts of resolutions, which are  then submitted to the plenary meeting 
  • Plenary is the meeting of all delegates to the World Health Assembly.

MAJOR STAKEHOLDERS AND PARTICIPANTS 

Major Stakeholders  

Diverse global health stakeholders, that include: 

  • Ministries of Health, government agencies, and other government departments at the national level. 
  • Health partnerships and WHO collaborating centres. 
  • United Nations at the global, regional and country level.  
Participants 
  • Young individuals/ medical students belonging to various countries to ensure active youth participation and engagement in global health governance.  
  • Individuals familiar with following the topics:  

o Public health and advocacy activities 

o State, local, and Tribal issues 

o Minority health organizations 

o Academic and scientific organizations. 

  • Youth organizations involvement to support in order to strengthen the voice of youths to prepare strategies and working plan for the World Health Assembly. 

IMPORTANCE 

  • World Health Assembly plays a vital role in global health, through collaboration with the numerous health entities all over the world working for the betterment of humankind in a meteoric phase.
  • WHA in a global platform shows the importance of Global Mental health to the diverse communities, through organizing programs in cooperation with Global Public Health  Education and training. 
  • WHA introduced the second model World Health Assembly in alliance with the office of  International Affairs for the Health assortment where people participated in the model assembly and discussed, debated on the issue of global mental health. 
  • Likewise, annually WHA creates health resolution where it addresses trending and challenging health issues that have changed the global health landscape.

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor