Norway's Statement on Programme and Priority Setting delivered by Director General of Health; Bjørn-Inge Larsen
Thank you, Chair.
Norway thanks the Secretariat for the introduction to the subject of Programmes and Priority Setting in the report. Ideas still seem to be at a general stage. However, sufficient direction is given in order to start the discussion on where we want to go.
We agree with the Secretariat’s own assessment of the importance priority setting has in the reform process. And furthermore, we will encourage the ambition in paragraph 22 to set global targets for health, that can be a basis for evaluation of WHO’s work in global health.
The WHO has a broad mandate in health, and it is difficult to see that the organization can look away from any topic important for health in one of its Member States. However, given that resources are scarce, we need to prioritize.
Today, Member States govern through a non-prioritized series of decision-making processes. The General Programme of Work, the Medium Term Strategic Plan, and the biannual budget are important. But countries also give signals of priority through resolutions in the WHA, EB and RC. Yet other settings of priority signaling are our formulations of core areas of work and core functions etc.
As far as we know, today we do not have a systematic approach as to how the WHO should prioritize among these plans and decisions adopted by us, the governing bodies. We would like to support the WHO in its efforts to set up a framework for prioritization and we will recommend a simpler framework for prioritizing.
In addition we know that most of WHO’s financing are earmarked funds. Such earmarked funds might undermine democratic prioritization by governing bodies.
In the consolidated concept paper the Secretariat suggests improving priority setting including through the development of flagship priorities and a five year programme of work for the governing bodies. It is, however, not clear how this relates to the six functions, five core areas of work or the priorities set through the budget documents or in resolutions.
Another approach to this could be to describe priorities in the proposed three year budget. In each budget, we could have and explicit description of what is prioritized for the organization in the three year period. Formulation of strategic priorities could be given in the strategic “General Programme of Work” that should be the second layer of documents of work for the organization. We believe that this could give increased coherence of decisions made by the governing bodies.
In this setting, the Executive Board could be requested to ensure that the agenda is in line with the priorities set in the budget and the general programme of work. This is a function that is currently under-exploited. Through this, the EB could ensure that the Assembly had a reasonable agenda for good discussions, that agreed priorities set the frame for the organization and that the resolutions passed are covered by resources available to the organization.
We believe that a sound process framework for priority setting is vital. WHO is consensus driven and democratic. We will suggest a simplified model for giving directions to the organization.