World Health Organization (WHO)

Our goal is to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world. Working through offices in more than 150 countries, WHO staff work side by side with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people. Together we strive to combat diseases – infectious diseases like influenza and HIV and noncommunicable ones like cancer and heart disease. We help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy old age. We ensure the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need.

Company details

Avenue Appia 20 , Geneva 27 , 1211 Switzerland

Locations Served

Business Type:
Professional association
Industry Type:
Market Focus:
Globally (various continents)
Year Founded:

Constitution of the World Health Organization: Principles

  • Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
  • The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.
  • The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.
  • The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.
  • Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of diseases, especially communicable disease, is a common danger.
  • Healthy development of the child is of basic importance; the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment is essential to such development.
  • The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.
  • Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people.
  • Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.

As a specialized agency of the UN system, WHO is firmly committed to the following ethical principles:

  • loyalty to WHO’s goals, mission, priorities, and policies
  • integrity and honesty in actions and decisions that may affect WHO
  • impartiality and independence from external sources and authorities
  • discretion
  • respect for the dignity, worth, equality, and diversity of all persons
  • accountability
  • technical excellence.

Whistleblowing and protection against retaliation

The WHO policy on Whistleblowing and protection against retaliation applies to all those (staff or others) who report, in good faith, suspected wrongdoing of corporate significance to WHO and may be subject to retaliatory action as a result.

Wrongdoing that implies a significant risk to WHO includes, but is not limited to:

  • fraud
  • corruption
  • waste of resources
  • sabotage
  • substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
  • sexual exploitation and abuse.

WHO’s whistleblowing policy is rooted in the following underlying approach:

  • staff members have an obligation to report wrongdoing;
  • the Organization has a duty to protect whistleblowers against retaliation;
  • the Organization has a duty to address wrongdoing by instituting remedies and taking disciplinary action as appropriate; and
  • retaliation constitutes misconduct.

Non-staff members are also encouraged to report any suspicious wrongdoing to WHO. The identity of a whistleblower that comes forward for advice regarding the reporting of suspected wrongdoing is protected. Confidentiality will only be waived with their express consent. By providing protection to staff and non-staff members, WHO is able to learn about and respond to wrongdoing. This enhances our accountability and supports the integrity of WHO’s operations and programmes.

Promoting compliance, risk management and ethics

The Office of Compliance, Risk Management and Ethics (CRE) promotes transparency and management of corporate-level risk, within the framework of WHO’s ethical principles. To this end, CRE promotes the practice of the ethical principles derived from the international civil service standards of conduct for all WHO staff and associated personnel. CRE provides clear and action-oriented advice in a secure and confidential environment where individuals can freely consult on ethical issues. The aim is to help individuals in performing their duties professionally and fairly, and to manage their personal affairs in a way that does not interfere with their official responsibilities.

The Office of Compliance, Risk Management and Ethics (CRE) offers the following services:

  • Confidential ethics advice
  • Promotion of ethics awareness and education
  • Promotion of ethics standards
  • Protection of staff from retaliation for reporting wrongdoing
  • Administration of declarations of interest for staff and external experts
  • Authorization of outside activities

When diplomats met to form the United Nations in 1945, one of the things they discussed was setting up a global health organization.

WHO’s Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948 – a date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day.

Related information

We are the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations’ system.

We do this by:

  • providing leadershipon matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
  • shaping theresearch agendaand stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
  • settingnorms and standardsand promoting and monitoring their implementation;
  • articulatingethical and evidence-basedpolicy options;
  • providingtechnical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
  • monitoringthe health situation and assessing health trends.

Leadership priorities

For each 6-year programme of work priority areas are identified where our leadership is most needed.

These are the areas in which we work

Health systems

WHO’s priority in the area of health systems is moving towards universal health coverage. WHO works together with policy-makers, global health partners, civil society, academia and the private sector to support countries to develop, implement and monitor solid national health plans. In addition, WHO supports countries to assure the availability of equitable integrated people-centred health services at an affordable price; facilitate access to affordable, safe and effective health technologies; and to strengthen health information systems and evidence-based policy-making.

Noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, and mental health conditions - together with violence and injuries - are collectively responsible for more than 70% of all deaths worldwide. Eight out of 10 of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The consequences of these diseases reach beyond the health sector and solutions require more than a system that prevents and treats disease.

Promoting health through the life-course

Promoting good health through the life-course cuts across all work done by WHO, and takes into account the need to address environment risks and social determinants of health, as well as gender, equity and human rights. The work in this biennium has a crucial focus on finishing the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals and reducing disparities between and within countries.

Communicable diseases

WHO is working with countries to increase and sustain access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV, tuberculosis,malaria and neglected tropical diseases and to reduce vaccine-preventable diseases. MDG 6 (combat HIV/AIDS,malaria and other diseases) has driven remarkable progress but much work remains.

Preparedness, surveillance and response

During emergencies, WHO’s operational role includes leading and coordinating the health response in support of countries, undertaking risk assessments, identifying priorities and setting strategies, providing critical technical guidance, supplies and financial resources as well as monitoring the health situation. WHO also helps countries to strengthen their national core capacities for emergency risk management to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies due to any hazard that pose a threat to human health security.

Corporate services

Corporate services provide the enabling functions, tools and resources that makes all of this work possible. For example, corporate services encompasses governing bodies convening Member States for policymaking, the legal team advising during the development of international treaties, communications staff helping disseminate health information, human resources bringing in some of the world’s best public health experts or building services providing the space and the tools for around 7000 staff to perform their work in 1 of WHO’s more than 150 offices.