Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The WHO: What it's going to do, and how it's going to do it...

For those interested in global health governance, or in precisely why we insist that international organizations can now be viewed as now exercising public administrative power more generally, it's worth having a look at the WHO's Medium-Term Strategic Action Plan 2008-2013, in which the Organization sets out the strategic objectives that will guide its activities over the next six years, and, in some detail, the ways in which these will be met and the lessons learned from past endeavours. Amongst the activities that it will be carrying out include the "development, modification, validation and dissemination of standards and operating procedures"; increased research and data collection on various different health issues; providing guidance and other forms of technical assistance to governments in dealing with these; compiling evidence on cost-effective interventions; building the necessary capacity (at both the national and international levels) for enabling rapid responses to health emergencies as they emerge; and otherwise fulfilling what it styles as its "global leadership role" in the field.

There is also ample evidence of the increasing awareness of the importance of global administrative law in its activities - both in encouraging mechanisms of accountability and transparency in WHO member states (what I call the "domestic coordinate" of GAL), and in applying these also to its own activities (the "extranational coordinate"). As an example, consider the following two passages, the first referring to health governance in member states, the second to the governance of the WHO:

Although there is no single universal model for organizing service delivery, there are some well established principles. First, measures should be taken to prevent exclusion and ensure universal coverage with integrated services; second, the full range of providers, both public and private, have to be taken into account; third, unnecessary duplication and fragmentation needs to be avoided; and fourth, effective accountability mechanisms that involve civil society and include communities should be in place (p. 83).

The governing bodies need to be serviced effectively, and their decisions implemented in a responsive and transparent way. Clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability are needed within the Secretariat, especially in a context where resources, and decisions on their use, are increasingly decentralized to locations where programmes are implemented (p. 101).

Hat tip to the Global Governance Watch website, for whom this document represents (yet another) “significant threat” to national sovereignty (indeed, no less than the rise of the "nanny UN"). Of course, to the extent that by this they mean the exercise of public power impacting upon national governments by extranational organizations, I can but agree; but surely the interesting question now is not how to stop this trend (that ship sailed some time ago), but how to regulate, confine and direct it.

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