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Table 1 Description of roles and responsibilities of the World Health organization (WHO), World Health Assembly, Executive Board and WHO resolutions

From: Geneva calling: WHO resolution on mental disorders

WHO entity Role and responsibility
World Health Organization (WHO) (www.who.int/) WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. WHO’s Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948. The Organization is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
World Health Assembly (WHA) (www.who.int/ mediacentre/events/governance/wha/en/index.html) The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It consists of every Minister of Health, or their designees, from 194 Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. Members of the WHA meet annually to discuss health topics, to set the WHO’s priorities, and to give suggestions for Member States. It similarly considers reports of the Executive Board, which it instructs in regard to matters upon which further action, study, investigation or report may be required.
Executive Board (EB) (www.who.int/governance/ eb/en/index.html) The Executive Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health. The main functions of the Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the WHA, to advise it and to facilitate its work.
WHO Resolutions (http://apps.who.int/gb/or/) Resolutions are documents adopted by the WHA and by the EB after preliminary discussion, debate, and negotiations. The EB may recommend to the WHA the adoption of resolutions. Resolutions are not binding on Member States. Resolutions may urge Member States to take certain activities related to a certain health problem. Resolutions may also request WHO to perform certain activities. WHA resolutions are often very influential, affecting actions by governments and funding decisions by donors.