There are a number of different ways patients’ organizations can engage with the work of WHO:
- At the international, regional and national levels
- Through formal and informal partnerships
- In policy or technical activities
- Through umbrella organizations in official relations
If you feel that your organization could better fulfil its objectives by working with WHO and have a clear sense of what you would like to achieve, you need to identify the correct person at WHO to speak to. You may want to develop contacts with a programme operating on a disease-specific issue or a system-wide issue, or you may simply want to strengthen your networks at the national or regional level. Whichever channel is most appropriate for your organization, it is important to demonstrate that you represent a significant proportion of patients and to demonstrate the significance of your work and the value of a partnership.
Work through an international organization
Patients’ organizations can engage with WHO through membership of an umbrella organization in official relations with WHO, such as IAPO. IAPO consults with members on its work with WHO and sends out WHO consultations to members to ensure that their voice is in heard in IAPO responses and policy statements. In addition, IAPO members have the opportunity to attend WHO events.
WHO Regional and Country Offices
If you would like to contact WHO at the national or regional level, you can find contact details on the regional and country pages of the WHO website at: www.who.int/countries
Using the contact details you find, you can write to your local WHO representative and introduce your organization, invite them to an event or outline what your organization is doing on a particular topic that WHO is also working on. It is important to remember that WHO’s representation and areas of work differ greatly from country to country.
Work with WHO Headquarters
It may be the case that your objectives will be best met by working with WHO at the international level through its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The many departments of WHO are organized into clusters, each headed up by an Assistant Director General. You can look up these clusters on the WHO website to see where your area of work sits within WHO. Aside from getting in touch with a relevant department, you can approach WHO through the Civil Society Initiative, which is run out of the Partnerships Department. The Civil Society Initiative can help you explore the possibility of mutually beneficial exchanges at the global or regional level.
Get Member State support
The support of national delegations is critical to the work of many patients’ organizations, particularly where the ultimate aim of working with WHO is to ensure that decisions made at the global level are implemented at the national level. National Ministries of Health put WHO policy into practice and, through their support, your advocacy efforts can be more effective. It may also be difficult to get your message or idea onto WHO’s agenda without a Member State backing it. Therefore, it is essential that any campaign finds the support of one or more Member States. Highlight that your message is representative of a significant number of people and demonstrate the evidence for why your health issue requires attention and the value which your partnership can bring.
For more information on how to engage with WHO, please see our IAPO World Health Assembly Mentor Programme Report and Guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact: email@example.com.