The World Health Organization (WHO), founded in 1948, is the largest of the United Nations (UN) specialized agencies. Its overall goal is to achieve the highest level of health for all. WHO provides leadership on global health matters and the research agenda, sets global health norms and standards, provides technical support to countries, and monitors health trends.
A founding member of WHO, Canada ended its latest three-year term to the Executive Board in May 2012, and now attends as an observer.
Health Canada leads Canada's relationship with WHO, while the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) provides Canada's assessed contribution—about $14 million per year.
Canada works closely with WHO to reduce global diseases such as polio, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and to improve maternal, newborn and child health including nutrition. Canada is a strong supporter of WHO initiatives such as:
Canada also works with WHO to support national health programs such as those in Haiti and the Polio Eradication Signature Project in Afghanistan and with WHO's regional offices such as the Pan American Health Organization.
With its near universal membership and strong convening power, WHO is the primary multilateral organization able to mobilize and coordinate international action on global health issues, particularly in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
WHO hosts the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and is a leader in developing standards and guidelines to improve the health of children and youth. WHO is a key multilateral partner for implementing the Muskoka Initiative—Canada's commitment to improve maternal, newborn and child health.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete co-chair the UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health established to monitor global commitments for maternal, newborn and child health, and ensure that as many lives as possible are saved.
WHO is an important partner for Canada in increasing food security. It has developed a comprehensive framework for action on the global food security crisis, including guidelines and standards, as well as worldwide surveys on nutritional deficiencies.
WHO has recently set global targets as part of its implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition. Canada provides support to WHO to assist countries in their efforts to scale up nutrition, as well as to the REACH (Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger) initiative, a United Nations coordination mechanism between the WHO, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, to strengthen national capacity to scale up nutrition. WHO is also part of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, a global call to action to increase efforts to fight undernutrition in women and children.
Canada's international development work with WHO focuses on two strategic objectives:
With the support of Canada and other donors, WHO: