Global Rules for Global Health: Why We Need An Independent, Impartial WHO

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Over the past few years the World Health Organization (WHO) has been undergoing a significant reform process. The immediate trigger was a budget crisis in 2010 that spurred massive lay-offs at the global agency. But at a more fundamental level, deeper systematic changes in global health governance have made reform imperative. While WHO reform draws relatively little attention outside diplomatic circles in Geneva, at stake are critical issues that will impact public health everywhere. This article’s key messages are:

  • Recent outbreaks of MERS highlight the need for a global response to infectious disease
  • The WHO has had a crucial role in developing rapid information sharing on new infectious threats and fair arrangements for access to drugs and vaccines and to research and development
  • The WHO is the only international agency that can broker such global rules but is badly underfunded to perform this core function
  • The MERS outbreaks offer an opportunity to reform WHO financing