The World Health Assembly (WHA) 73

IFMSA delegation at World Health Assembly 73

The World Health Assembly (WHA) 73 – Continued took place from the 9th till the 14th of November, 2020. The WHA is the main decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) and usually takes place annually in May, in Geneva It is attended by Member States, Observers, and Non-State Actors in official relations with the WHO – such as the IFMSA!

This year the WHA happened virtually in May. However, the sessions focused on COVID-19 only. The remaining agenda items were moved to this week. The main functions of the WHA are to determine the policies of the WHO, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed program budget. Again, the WHA took place virtually and IFMSA attended with a delegation of seven officials. We learned about our level of engagement five days before the start of the assembly, so the delegation worked very hard in a short amount of time to contribute in the best manner.

The World Health Assembly was opened with introductory impressive and important remarks by Dr. Tedros, the Director-General of the WHO. Dr. Tedros focused on COVID-19 in his remarks, stating that currently almost 50 million COVID-19  cases have been reported, with more than 1.2 million deaths. Millions more have died due to a lack of essential health services.  Although this is a global crisis, some countries have responded differently and have been affected differently.  Half of all cases and deaths have been in only four countries. He continued: ‘We might be tired of COVID – but it is not tired of us.’ Dr. Tedros went on to highlight the achievements of the WHO in the past months, further than the pandemic alone. Finally, he ended by saying these words:

“We cannot afford to see health as a byproduct of development, or a commodity that only the rich can afford.   We must see it is a fundamental human right that underpins every human aspiration. We  are one big family and  must share  cooperation, solidarity, compassion, and peace.”

After this powerful introduction, the next agenda points started. The IFMSA Delegation had worked hard on creating statements to contribute to the discussions. The first statement we delivered was on Agenda Item 18.6 Data and innovation: draft global strategy on digital health. We focused on our standpoint that youth, as digital natives, should play a central role in this strategy. Our second statement was on Agenda Item 13.2 WHO’s work in health emergencies. Our statement focused on the crucial work that young people have performed during this pandemic and the importance of involving youth on a local and global level. Finally, our last statement was on Agenda Item 11, Pillar 1 One billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage. An excerpt of this statement is as follows:

“We call upon WHO and Member States to ensure that medical students, who represent the future health workforce, are given an integral role in the global movement towards achieving UHC.”

Major decisions surrounding this World Health Assembly had already been passed through a written silence procedure during the de minimis sessions of the 73rd WHA in May. Therefore, many agenda points were merged together into bigger agenda points. This reduced the opportunities for statements for Non-State Actors like the IFMSA. Even so, we aimed to, through our efforts, be able to reach Member States and the WHO virtually and to get our message across.

The World Health Assembly was closed early, on Friday the 13th of November. This was yet another illustration of the opportunities that virtual settings bring when it comes to efficiency. In her closing remarks, the President of the 73rd World Health Assembly specifically thanked Non-State Actors for all that they do.

Do you want to get involved in the 74th World Health Assembly happening in May 2021? Stay tuned on IFMSA social media and the servers for the call to the Youth Pre World Health Assembly and apply to become part of the IFMSA Delegation!

For details on the 73rd WHA – Continued please view:

IFMSA Full Statements: [here]

The recordings:

The official documents including the agenda:

The journals:

The decisions:

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