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The World Health Organisation (WHO)


Geneva, Switzerland



Description: The primary role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations’ system.

WHO’s goal is to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world. Working through offices in more than 150 countries, WHO staff works side by side with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people.

WHO also works to combat diseases – infectious diseases such as influenza and HIV and noncommunicable ones like cancer and heart disease. They help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy life. And they work to ensure the safety of “the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need.”

Organization Type: International Inter-Governmental Organization
Issue areas covered:

The WHO has a mandate for stray dog control, which is also covered by an OIE international standard. It has coordinated a number of pilot projects on stray dog control, including projects in Tanzania, South Africa and the Philippines, supported by the Gates Foundation.

The WHO publishes advice on diet and health, including a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. It is responsible for strengthening and updating regional and national policies on diet, and they provide advice on national planning measures (including agriculture, which is recognized to have a large impact on national diets. They also report on fiscal policies for diet. Antibiotic resistance is a major concern of the WHO, because “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” Its guidance includes a section on agricultural production.

An open letter was published in the Lancet on 22 May 2017 urging the WHO to take action on industrial animal farming and to address major WHO concerns, such as climate change, antibiotic resistance and the rise of non-communicable diseases.

The WHO has a program on Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health (PHE), which includes aspects such as water, sanitation and hygiene; chemicals management; climate change; occupational health; and High Environmental Impact Economic Sectors; and another on Zoonoses and Veterinary and Public Health. These are relevant to terrestrial and fish farming, particularly intensive production.

Key opportunities and dates for input: 
  • The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It generally meets in Geneva in May each year.
Requirements for participation: 

There is more about WHO’s collaboration with non-state actors, including NGOs, This includes a Framework of Engagement with non-state actors and conditions for secondments.

Advocacy Opportunities:

Past advocacy has shown WHO to be receptive to meat reduction messages in nutrition advice (primarily a plant-based diet), and they have also countered claims from development organizations about the need for decreased meat consumption, stressing the value of fortification. There is scope to increase APO advocacy in a number of areas:

  • APOs advocacy could usefully include follow-up on the Lancet letter asking them to address industrial animal agriculture.

  • Strengthen messages about eating less meat, better value of fortification, actions needed to combat antibiotic resistance (strengthening such messages and changes to agricultural systems in policy advice).

  • There are opportunities in connection with the public health and environmental impacts of intensive farming (and possibly for separate classification/consideration of factory farming as a High Environmental Impact Economic Sector).

  • In their work on national health policies, the WHO could promote the inclusion of proactive humane rabies control/humane stray dog control.

  • They could also harmonize the donor community to support proactive work on rabies control/humane stray dog control, as a cost-effective health intervention.

  • The WHO could develop protocols and training from its rabies pilot projects in Tanzania and KwaZulu-Natal and seek further funding from the Gates Foundation to roll these out in the region together with other stakeholders/experts.

  • As a One Health/One Welfare partner of the OIE to further stress the need for compliance with the international stray dog control standard.

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