152nd WHO Executive Board Meeting

“I encourage all Member States to meet our youth today [and] to include Youth Representatives in your delegations to the World Health Assembly (WHA)”
These were the exact words of Dr Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Director-General during his opening report at the 152nd Executive Board Meeting (EBM) of the World Health Organization (WHO) where the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and other youth non-state actors (NSAs)/non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were present.

The WHO EB is composed of 34 technically-qualified members elected for three-year terms with a responsibility of implementing the policies and decisions of the World Health Assembly. The WHO EBM is a biannual meeting for defining the priorities and agenda for the next World Health Assembly and resolutions to be considered by it. Its 152nd Session was held from 30th January to 7th February 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland, and IFMSA was present alongside delegations from 194 member-states and other international NGOs and partners. 

The IFMSA delegation was composed of 7 people:

  • Hamaiyal Sana (in-person): IFMSA Liaison Officer to the WHO
  • Mahmood Al Hamody (in-person)
  • Francisco Franco Pêgo (in-person)
  • Jasmin Somers (in-person)
  • Beth Stinchcombe (online)
  • Temitayo Femi Matthew (online)
  • Zahoraty Amer (online)

Prior to the meeting, we had online preparation to coordinate several tasks e.g. preparing statements, social media advocacy and how to conduct the Youth, Gender and One Health watches. During the meeting, we read statements, conducted the watches, shared the main outcomes of each day through social media, attended side events and connected with Member State delegates.

Additionally, there was growing dialogue regarding the Youth Delegate Program, which was encouraged by Dr. Tedros opening remarks which called on Member States to reach out to their youth. As such, we connected various Members  with their national representatives to begin discussions around establishing a Youth Delegate Program.

Regarding the Executive Board Meeting our main agenda priorities were:

  • 5. Universal health coverage (text)
  • 12. Public health emergencies: preparedness and response (text)
  • 23.3. WHO reforms (NSA engagement): Involvement of non-State actors in WHO’s governing bodies (text + video)
  • 23.4. Engagement with non-State actors (text + video)
  • 25.7. Reform of the global internship programme

We had Constituency statements for agenda points 5 and 12 where we combined voices with other NSAs to deliver an impactful statement. For agenda points 23.3 and 23.4 we delivered our statements individually which you can access by clicking on the links.

The EB Meeting is quite different from the WHA in May. At this meeting, most documents are ‘noted’ by the Member States. where they will then receive appraisal and improvement suggestions before final resolutions are taken to the WHA.

However, it is interesting to share one special document: a pandemic tool to be adopted in 2024 which is being worked on by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB). If you have special interest in this topic, you can access the latest draft of the document – the Zero Draft before INB4.

Prior to the EB Meeting, the WHO hosted the first ever WHO Youth Council inaugural meeting at the WHO Headquarters between the  27th and the 30th January, 2023. The IFMSA Liaison Officer to the WHO was nominated as the Vice-Chair of the WHO Youth Council and the IFMSA Vice-President for External Affairs (VPE) was nominated as the lead of the WHO Youth Council UHC working group.

On the last day of the WHO Youth Council inaugural meeting – which coincided with the beginning of the WHO 152nd EB Meeting – the on-site IFMSA delegation came together and initiated their engagement.  

The work of the council was highlighted by the WHO Director-General, Chair of the WHO Executive Board, Dr Kerstin Vesna Petrič, and other senior WHO leaders during the WHO EB meeting in strong words.

“The Youth Council is the central element of WHO’s commitment to engage with young people, by supporting their leadership, promoting partnerships, and advocating for their recognition and visibility,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Your voices and your insights can make a real difference to realising WHO’s vision of Health for All.” 

The inaugural meeting proved to be a great avenue for the IFMSA delegation to showcase their work and engage with other members of the council and the Member States to put  youth excellence and partnership at the core of every effort for health for all. 

After the success of the WHO EB Meeting and inaugural Youth Council, IFMSA  will continue advocating towards meaningful youth engagement within WHO. We look forward to continuing our advocacy efforts in the lead-up to the WHA in May.

For further information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the IFMSA Liaison Officer to the World Health Organisation, Hamaiyal Sana, at [email protected]

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