Your guide to this year’s World Health Assembly

15 May 2017
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Source: WHO/L. Cipriani

Update, 5/17/17: Now featuring an updated calendar of side events.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, which gathers the WHO Member States annually in Geneva, Switzerland, to determine the global health agenda and budget put forward by the WHO Executive Board. WHA is attended by stakeholders from industry, governments, NGOs and others and provides a forum for multilateral dialogue to advance health policies to reduce the burden of diseases and drive resources around key health issues. The 70th Session of the World Health Assembly will take place May 22-31, 2017.

Key side events

In addition to the formal agenda, stakeholders from across industries host events alongside the Assembly committee and plenary meetings to advance their initiatives and build constituencies around various global health issues. Trying to figure out which sessions to attend or secure an invite? Check out our handy guide to key events. If you are at the conference, we would love to connect and have highlighted sessions at which we will have a presence.

What is on the agenda?

  • The election of a new Director-General. This is the first year in which candidates have openly campaigned for the position in a bid to increase transparency. The three candidates include Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Pakistan’s Dr. Sania Nishtar and Britain’s Dr. David Nabarro. You can read about their stances on some of the most pressing global health issues here. The election comes at a pivotal time for the WHO, following its highly scrutinized response to the Ebola crisis. Global health experts have expressed the need for WHO to strengthen its leadership and better define its position in the increasingly saturated global health landscape. The agency operates under a constrictive budget, as its mandate continues to grow. The incoming director-general will inherit these struggles, and all candidates have campaigned on common themes of improving leadership, transparency and funding.
  • Shortage of and access to medicines and vaccines, including progress by Member States and the Secretariat on a resolution to support countries in ensuring access to affordable, high-quality, essential medicines. The agenda will also cover the continuing importance of access to essential medicines under the Sustainable Development Goals and as related to antimicrobial resistance, noncommunicable diseases, maternal and child health, HIV, TB and malaria.
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) will be a big topic of conversation this year in the context of a larger agenda on preparedness, surveillance and response. Member States will discuss implementation of a 2015 resolution on the global action plan on AMR, and the United Nations General Assembly resolution stemming out of a recent UN high-level meeting on AMR, which includes commitments to develop multisectoral national action plans with a One Health approach.
  • Noncommunicable diseases. The focus will be on successful implementation of prevention policies, highlighting collaborations between government, multilateral institutions and industry that build towards the 2020 Action Plan made at the 64th World Health Assembly.


How can you engage?

WHA provides an opportunity for the private sector to increase their visibility and strengthen leadership on priority issues in global health policy, and engage key stakeholders to help advance goals around these issues. An organization’s engagement may include hosting side events on priority issues, participating in bilateral meetings with key stakeholders or sharing their point of view through a speaking engagement. Interested? We would love to connect.

 Additional resources:

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