Ethics and health

Ethics and health at WHO

Health ethics has been an integral part of the activities of many units and departments at WHO for many years and is addressed not only within the Department of Knowledge, Ethics and Research (HIS/KER) and throughout the organization. KER works collaboratively with staff from all departments and the regional offices to identify, design, and carry out projects addressing the ethics of health care, public health, and biomedical science. This encompasses projects that originate in the department and those on which it provides advice and assistance to activities located in other clusters and in regional offices.

Our mission

In October 2002, the World Health Organization launched its Ethics and Health Initiative to provide a focal point for the examination of the ethical issues raised by activities throughout the organization, including the regional and country offices, and to develop activities regarding a wide range of global bioethics topics, from organ and tissue transplantation to developments in genomics, and from research with human beings to fair access to health services.

Our activities

Work in ethics and health is now carried out by the Department of Knowledge, Ethics and Research in the Information, Research and Evidence cluster at headquarters (HIS/KER). This department is involved in a wide range of ethics activities, both on its own initiative and in response to the needs of other parts of WHO, at HQ as well as in WHO's country and regional offices. The specific projects, many of which link different departments and involve experts from outside the organization, evolve in response to changes in the field.

Through the U.N. Inter-Agency Committee on Bioethics, the unit also has liaison relations with the ethics offices of other United Nations agencies as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations dealing with bioethics issues.

ONEC database

Following the 8th Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies, The Global Health Ethics Unit at WHO that provides the permanent secretariat for the Global Summit started developing a database containing Opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees (ONEC). The ONEC database is hosted in WHO and is accessible through a public website. . The goal of this initiative is to provide easy, free, permanent and secure access to information and opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees.

International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP)

The main aim of the WHO ICTRP is to improve research transparency and strengthen the validity and value of the scientific evidence base by facilitating the prospective registration of the WHO Trial Registration Data Set on all clinical trials, and the public accessibility of that information.

Contact information

Global Health Ethics
Department of Knowledge, Ethics and Research
World Health Organization
20, Avenue Appia
CH-1211 Genève 27

The email address is: