WHO Director-General Outlines Vision For Reform In World Health Assembly Opening Address

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on Monday laid out her vision for reforming the international health agency in the opening address of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, saying she sees “a WHO that gives a bigger voice to the many partners working on health, but encourages them to speak with a coherent voice that responds, first and foremost, to the needs and priorities as defined by recipient countries,” Intellectual Property Watch reports.

While “Chan said the WHO is facing financial difficulties,” she explained that the body “is ’embarking on the most extensive administrative, managerial, and financial reforms, especially financial accountability, in its 63-year history,'” according to Intellectual Property Watch (Saez, 5/16). The WHO, which relies primarily on voluntary contributions for funding, has said it estimates a $300 million deficit in 2011 because of a decline in such donations, Agence France-Presse/New Age reports. As a result, the agency cut its biannual budget by about $1 billion and is expected to lay off approximately 12 percent of its Geneva-based staff (5/16).

Chan also “welcomed the results of an investigation into the way the World Health Organization handled the threat of the 2009 global influenza pandemic,” which she said cleared the agency of charges it had manufactured the H1N1 pandemic to boost pharmaceutical company sales, according to VOA News (Schlein, 5/16).