The EU’s role in creating a more effective WHO

Louise G. Van Schaik, Samantha Battams

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    This chapter considers discussions on the reform of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the role of the EU and its member states (hereafter the EU) within them. The WHO is a specialized UN agency established in 1948. Based in Geneva, it is one of the oldest UN bodies with a clear functional focus on the international aspects of health (Lee 2009; Brown and Cueto 2011). It stands out from other entities addressing international health matters (such as the World Bank, OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Council of Europe, Gates Foundation and Global Fund) because of its central role in combating infectious diseases and treaty making powers, as well as its global membership. The WHO’s 194 members give political guidance to the organization through the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) meetings that take place in May and through an Executive Board (EB) that meets twice a year and consists of a subset of 34 members. The WHO is unique because of its strongly decentralized structure with six regional offices that operate in a relatively autonomous way and spend most of the organization’s budget.2 For a number of years, the WHO has been plagued by severe financial difficulties, criticism of its decentralized structure, accusations of being overly susceptible to private sector interests and its authority being undermined by a plethora of other actors engaging in global health. However, having a strong multilateral agency for health seems all the more important given the health challenges confronting today’s world. Globalization of trade, population expansion, migration, increased movement across state borders, climate change, increased access to and use of some medicines (and poor accessibility of others) and over-consumption of unhealthy foods have aggravated cross-border health risks. These include an increased risk for pandemics, bioterror, outbreaks of new diseases spreading from animals to humans, a steep rise in non-communicable diseases, and resistance to antibiotics. In addition, communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS continue to affect and destabilize societies in developing countries.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe EU and Effective Multilateralism
    Subtitle of host publicationInternal and External Reform Practices
    EditorsEdith Drieskens, Louise G van Schaik
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781315881553
    ISBN (Print)9780415713115
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Studies in European Security and Strategy


    • foreign policy
    • European security
    • reform


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