WHO and global health financing
Since the beginning of the WHO reform process in 2010 a number of civil society organizations have called for Member States to increase their financial contributions to WHO and enhance their impact in the organization. Besides the call of these organizations, also the WHO DGs Chan and Tedros, a number of Member States and a range of organizations have called for a proportional increase of Assessed Contributions to finance core activities of the WHO. However, the financial situation of the organization has in essence not improved over the years. This is again expressed and addressed in a distorted way in an “investment case” launched by the WHO secretariat in September 2018.
The continued financial crisis of the WHO shows that financing of global public goods such as knowledge generation, harmonizing norms and standards, sharing intellectual property as well as financing the leadership and stewardship function in complex global health systems, and the existence and financing of global public institutions responsible for delivering these global public goods are not evident any more. Instead, WHO deepened its engagement with the philanthropic, private and financial sector all with the underlying notion that the innovation and engagement of all actors is needed to address global challenges, public health threats and attain sustainable development. The majority of funding coming from these actors is tied to single issues based on donors’ interests instead of the overall performance of WHO as global health authority.
What is now needed is both deconstructing and critiquing the proposed financial and investment models, providing alternatives in WHO and global health financing and creating a transnational movement calling for just economic reforms that would be redistributive, regulatory and regenerative in nature.
WHO and global health governance
The WHO financing and governance crisis are closely interrelated, as expressed in the “WHO reform” project launched by the former DG Margaret Chan in 2011 and since then critically watched and commented by civil society. But WHO (and global health) governance issue go also beyond the financing aspect.
The engagement of many civil society organizations and the need for sharing assessments, joint strategizing and coordinated interventions regarding the WHO financing and governance crisis was one of the roots of the Geneva Global Health Hub in 2015-2016.
At the same time when G2H2 was launched, the 69th World Health Assembly adopted, in May 2016, the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA). The Framework “endeavours to strengthen WHO engagement with non-State actors (NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations, and academic institutions) while protecting its work from potential risks such as conflict of interest, reputational risks, and undue influence.”
After the adoption of the Framework of Engagement by the WHA, civil society groups agreed at strategy meetings in January and May 2017 on the need to critically watch FENSA implementation and requested G2H2 to support this process by hosting a “FENSA Watch” working group open to members and other engaged civil society organizations.
There is a clear assessment within G2H2 that WHO financing and governance issues cannot be separated from the overall global health governance crisis and, e.g. our critical analysis of actors such as the World Bank and OECD, philanthrocapitalist foundations, Global Health Initiatives and Public Private Partnerships – and related civil society actors and engagement.