WHO’s work with countries

Implementing WHO reform at country level

Since 2012, WHO has undertaken a comprehensive series of reforms to make the Organization fit for purpose, and better equipped to address the increasingly complex health challenges of the 21st Century.

There are 3 components to the WHO reform:

  • programmatic – to improve people’s health
  • governance – to increase coherence in global health
  • managerial – in pursuit of organizational excellence.

The fundamental challenge the Organization faces – in light of the reform – is how to make its work relevant in countries at different stages of development, whether or not WHO has a physical presence.

All 3 levels of the Organization – at headquarters, regional and country level – are making changes in the ways they operate, to improve the quality of support to Member States.

WHO is adjusting its ways of cooperating to adapt to:

  • evolving health and development challenges
  • shifts in national institutions and capacities
  • variations in the global health and development cooperation environment
  • changing expectations of WHO Member States and other partners.

Key reform actions at the country level

To transform the ways WHO works at country level, the Organization is undertaking key measures.

Redefining the ways in which WHO does business at country level

WHO is shifting its organizational emphasis toward policy advice and capacity building. It also seeks to widen the spectrum of people, groups and bodies with whom it cooperates This includes a variety of ministries, non-State actors and partnerships. WHO is increasingly taking on a leadership role at country level in health development cooperation, both in terms of coordinating South-South and triangular cooperation and coordinating effectively with the wider United Nations system.

Aligning planning and resource allocation to country priorities

Ongoing efforts to adapt and respond to changing country needs and circumstances have led to a redefined bottom-up planning process. Its purpose is to better identify the needs at country level via the country cooperation priorities. WHO uses the Country Cooperation Strategy as a strategic tool to align financial and human resources in countries with the Twelfth General Programme of Work. Improvements to resource mobilization and financial flexibility are also in progress to make country offices more responsive to the country’s health needs.

Strengthening human resources at country level

As a knowledge-based organization, WHO relies on a highly skilled, flexible and motivated workforce. The Organization is working to improve the technical and managerial skills of country teams and Heads of WHO Offices in countries, territories and areas (HWOs) in 3 ways:

  • Attracting talent – including a new selection process for HWOs and the appointment of Deputy HWOs in selected countries.
  • Retaining talent – through career management, by redefining core country capacities to match country needs and profiles, and promoting staff mobility across the regions.
  • Promoting an enabling working environment – by implementing standards of conduct, accountability and internal control training.