New replenishment mechanism to make WHO funding flexible welcomed at World Health Assembly

Sustainable Development Goals should also discuss adolescent health, says a report presented at the World Health Assembly  

By Seema Prasad
Published: Saturday 27 May 2023
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in a meeting with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly. Photos: @DrTedros / Twitter

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed a “replenishment mechanism” to help the United Nations body have more flexible funding options during the 76th World Assembly Health session held on May 25, 2023. 

The mechanism is a watershed for WHO’s current funding system since 84 per cent of its funds are sourced from generous donors including countries as well as philanthropic organisations. Of these funds, specific voluntary contributions comprise 88 per cent of all donations, leaving no room for WHO to be flexible and shift funds as per its requirements.

This inflexible funding mechanism is seen as a threat to WHO’s ability to be financial independent and function as the leading global health coordinator.

There are two more types of funds among those donated to WHO. Core voluntary contributions are completely at the discretion of WHO to spend unconditionally and encompass 4.1 per cent of all voluntary contributions. Similarly, thematic and strategic engagement funds are partially flexible funds that make up nearly eight per cent of voluntary contributions in 2020-21.

Currently, the membership fees (assessed contributions) that countries pay to be a part of WHO are within the control of the organisation, representing 16 per cent of the total budget in 2020–2021.

On the contrary, ‘Financial resources need to be fully flexible and fully interchangeable across priorities and areas of work in order to match the priorities set,” argues the WHO program budget (2024–2025). 

What is the new replenishment mechanism?

During the assembly session, member states requested a plan for the first investment round before it commences in 2024. This will cover a four-year period from 2025 to 2028.

“A WHO replenishment mechanism would raise voluntary contributions for the part of the Organization’s base segment that is not funded by assessed contributions. Replenishment contributions would cover work by country offices, regional offices, and headquarters across all strategic priorities, as well as the enabling functions. The upper limits of any replenishment funding envelope will thus be set by the boundaries of the general programme of work and associated programme budgets,” the feasibility report by the Working Group on Sustainable Financing explained.

The report of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board presented to the assembly urged:

Member States and other donors to ensure the full financing of the base budget segment of the Fourteenth General Programme of Work, and to continue to strive to provide WHO with unearmarked voluntary contributions consistent with the recommendations of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing adopted by the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly.

On the same day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented another recent report analysing the progress made on The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) adopted by Assembly in 2016.

The report questioned 194 member states on the actions they might need to implement to ensure that adolescent health is included while discussing the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals at the 2023 SDG Summit. It also emphasised that political and financial commitments should be made at the 2023 Global Forum for Adolescents.

This is in alignment with the WHO’s work with Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health focused on developing an Adolescent Well-being Framework. It takes into account mental, physical, and social well-being for integration into WHO programs.

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