Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Civil society side event to the 65th WHA

WHO reform: Democratic pathways for a sustainable leadership in global health

WHO reform: Democratic pathways for a sustainable leadership in global health

Geneva, 23 May 2012, Briefing for delegates and other members of the public health community attending the 65th World Health Assembly

In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) set out to reform itself, a process why may result in repositioning the agency's function in global health and reshaping the way in which the WHO is governed, managed and financed. It is critical to ensure that this important initiative does not compromise the leading, coordinating and norm-setting role of the WHO enshrined in the agency's Constitution. 

Initially the WHO played a unique role in promoting health as a basic human right, but since the end of the '80s the organization has been increasingly sidelined by various trade and competition rules. In this way health and other fundamental human rights have come to be regarded as subject to availability of finance, rather than as basic non-negotiable rights. 

The WHO reform is a complex process and it has much to do with the role of the UN - and multilateralism - in today’s world. Priority setting, management and governance - today at the heart of the WHO reform - are profoundly intertwined issues. The way these three pillars of the WHO are designed and negotiated in the future bears significant political implications.

Public interest civil society organizations have historically played a key role in promoting the right to health and the constitutional role of the WHO. Today they are striving to ensure that - through the reform - the WHO will significantly improve its work as a multilateral organization pursuing its public policy agenda for global health, with democratic governance, and protected from undue influence from vested interests. 

The WHA side event hosted by the Medicus Mundi International Network (MMI) for the Democratising Global Health Coalition on the WHO Reform (DGH) provided the venue for an open and public dialogue on issues that civil society organizations consider critical for building a healthy future for the WHO. The panel also presented some ways forward to be considered by member states to ensure WHO's policy leadership on health, its ultimate responsibility.

Civil society input

  • Armando De Negri, World Social Forum for Health and Social Security, Brazil
  • Lida Lhotska, IBFAN
  • David Legge, People's Health Movement


  • Ambassador Tom Mboya, Kenya
  • Björn Kümmel, Federal Ministry of Health, Germany
  • Daniel Lopez Acuña, DG Office, WHO


  • Nicoletta Dentico, Coordinator, DGH Coalition


Democratising Global Health Coalition on the WHO Reform (DGH) 

DGH coordinator: Nicoletta Dentico

Civil society and WHO reform: see WHO reform debate

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