Intended for healthcare professionals


Making the World Health Assembly fit for the 21st century

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 18 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4079
  1. Ilona Kickbusch, professor1,
  2. Mathias Bonk, global health consultant2
  1. 1Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 1211 Genève 21, Switzerland
  2. 2Institute of Public Health, University of Heidelberg, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  1. ilona.kickbusch{at}

Needs better quality of debate and use of technology

The 67th World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the 194 member states of the World Health Organization and its supreme decision making body, ended on 24 May this year. This latest assembly was record breaking: it had 3500 registered participants—2200 delegates of member states led by more than 130 ministers of health and about 1300 observers from international and non-governmental organisations officially related to WHO. This does not include all the others who come to Geneva to lobby and to network. The assembly discussed 66 agenda items; it passed 20 resolutions and 10 decisions based on 80 background papers amounting to about 1000 pages. Some debates continued until 3.30 am, and many agenda items reached their final conclusion only late on Saturday evening, when most participants had left.

It was clear that the assembly is changing its nature. For some, this assembly was the most exhausting meeting they had ever attended, and the director general conceded that the pace of work had been “unhealthy.” Yet for others it reflected the extraordinary vigour of the global health community. Although the deliberations of member states remain at its core—in plenary, in committees A and B—many …

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