Founded in 1948, the organisation has its own constitution that defines its principles, governing structure and mandate for its work to ensure that people are able to attain the “highest possible level of health”. It is headquartered in Geneva and has 150 field offices worldwide from which it carries out a broad spectrum of work.
The organisation’s key role is to direct and coordinate international health within the UN system. Under its mandate WHO advocates for universal healthcare, coordinates responses to health emergencies, monitors public health risks, and supports the administration of vaccines worldwide.
Its main areas of work are:
- Health systems
- Health through the life-course
- Noncommunicable and communicable diseases
- Preparedness, surveillance and response
- Corporate services
Funding has two channels: assessed contributions and core voluntary contributions.
Assessed contributions are dues states pay as part of their membership of the Organisation. The amount each country pays is calculated based on its wealth and population. You can read more details about this here.
These assessed contributions make up less than a quarter of the Organisation’s financing but remain integral to financing WHO’s work as not only do they allow a regular source of funding, but also enable resources to be aligned to the Programme Budget, rather than being tied to specific projects selected by donors.
You can see a list of assessed contributions here.
The rest of the WHO’s funding comes from voluntary payments from member countries, foundations, and the private sector and are generally provided for specific programmes, such as polio vaccination, Ebola control, or COVID-19.
How is it governed?
Governance of the Organisation is administered by the World Health Assembly, comprising 194 member states – the supreme decision-making body. They in turn elect 34 “technically qualified” individuals to the Executive Board, which gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly.
The Organization is headed by the Director-General, who is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Executive Board. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the current Director-General of WHO, elected by a vote of Member States at the World Health Assembly on 23 May 2017. The Director-General is WHO’s chief technical and administrative officer and oversees the policy for the Organization’s international health work. Dr Tedros took office for a five-year term on 1 July 2017.
UNA-UK Briefing: https://www.una.org.uk/news/un-briefings-world-health-organisation
WHO website: https://www.who.int/
List of United Nations organizations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_System#Specialized_agencies