WHO draft concept note on strategic priorities for 2019-2023 charts a new vision for the organization

On 25 August 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a draft concept note to provide a strategic framework to underpin WHO’s General Programme of of Work from 2019-2023. This concept notes endeavors to set out WHO’s strategic priorities through 2023 and in addition, serve as “the strategic basis for resource mobilization.” The WHO’s strategic priorities include: 1) Prevent, detect, and respond to epidemics, 2) Provide health services in emergencies and strengthen health systems, 3) Help countries to achieve universal health coverage, 4) Lead on health related SDGs including women, children and adolescents; climate and environmental change; communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and 5) Provide the world’s platform for collective decision-making in health.

In achieving these strategic priorities, the WHO concept note identifies the following enabling factors on how WHO will deliver on these priorities (the note acknowledges that many of these ideas emanated from WHO staff following a call from the Working Group on Initiatives for Change). These enabling factors include: 1) Countries at the Centre, 2) Value for Money, 3) Workforce of Excellence, 4) Re-engineering Data Architecture, 5) Fostering Innovation, 6) Strengthening health diplomacy, resource mobilization, and communications, 6) Strengthening and expanding partnerships, 7) Promoting policy coherence and 8) Fit-for-purpose administration and management.

In relation to fostering innovation, the concept note highlights the roles of pre-qualification of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics and “identifying priorities and coordinating R&D in specific circumstances such as epidemics and areas where innovation has been lagging”:

WHO will embrace innovation to a much greater degree in several ways – recognizing that ultimately innovation is a desired cultural trait within an organization even more so than a strategy. Innovation – including science and technology, social (e.g. many aspects of service delivery), and business / financial innovation – accelerates the attainment of SDGs. WHO will be a better partner with innovation funders including foundations and innovation programmes of governments. WHO has a comparative advantage in helping promising innovations which have been funded by these partners to integrate into country health systems and to scale and becom sustainable. WHO will continue its critical regulatory role in innovation through pre-qualification of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics as well as in health information through the development of ICD 11. WHO has a role in fostering innovation, identifying priorities and coordinating R&D in specific circumstances such as epidemics and areas where innovation has been lagging. WHO also has a role in capacity building for research and innovation in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, WHO itself will become a more innovative organization and develop an internal challenge mechanism to tap and fund the best ideas from across the organization.

With respect to strengthening health diplomacy, resource mobilization, and communications, the concept paper notes:

WHO has critical external relations functions. It has already been mentioned that WHO will provide political leadership with a particular focus on health equity and that the level of health diplomacy will be elevated in country offices. For this, WHO needs a function akin to the Foreign Ministry of a country to support the Director-General. Other key and related external relations functions include resource mobilization, communications, and partnerships. WHO will bring all these together so they work in a more coherent manner. It is also widely recognized that WHO needs to improve some of these functions in particular resource mobilization and communication. On resource mobilization, as a Member State organization, the WHO Secretariat should not be on one side with Member States on the other. Rather, Member States should raise funds for WHO, and this should occur at a senior political level. WHO will also improve the connection between these external relations functions and programmes, since initiatives like health for all are both political and technical, and of course WHO needs to mobilize resources effectively to fulfil its mission. A strong strategy function for the whole organization linked to a strong measurement framework and the external relations function are two sides of the same coin. The best strategy to mobilize resources is to be clear on the impact to be achieved.

In relation to “strengthening and expanding partnerships”, the WHO secretariat proposes the following guidance:

WHO exists in an ecosystem of partners who can only achieve the SDG targets if they all work together. These partners include United Nations agencies but also nongovernmental organizations, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions. WHO will use FENSA, which is yet to be fully implemented, as an enabler of responsible and productive partnerships. WHO will strive to work as a good partner, collaborating for synergies, and with a sense of humility.

The WHO concept note on the general programme of work will be discussed at all meetings of the WHO Regional Committees (AFRO, EURO, EMRO, PAHO, SEARO, and WPRO). The WHO proposes presenting a draft general programme of work during an additional session of the WHO Executive Board scheduled for 22-23 November 2017.

The concept paper details the roll out of the proposed global programme of work:

The proposed goal is to have GPW 13 approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2018. The benefits of this timeline include: (1) rapid pivot from planning to implementation; (2) adopting GPW 13 in time to shape Programme Budget 2020-2021; (3) providing a framework on which to pursue needed resource mobilization in a timely and coherent manner. Naturally, consultation on GPW 13 must be robust. The Secretariat believes the May 2018 goal is feasible. To date, the Bureau and Regional Directors have agreed to support this goal. Robust consultation on the basis of this draft concept note at the Regional Committee Meetings and more broadly through September and October will result in a draft General Programme of Work. Consultation with Member States will continue after the initial discussions at Regional Committees – through WHO country offices and other mechanisms – and robust consultation with partners and other non-State actors will also occur – including a web-based consultation. An additional Executive Board meeting in November 2017 has been proposed to consider the draft GPW and a final draft will be submitted to the January Executive Board meeting.