Highlighting the unique legitimacy of the World Health Organization (WHO), this working paper explores how priority-setting for WHO can be part of efforts to make it fit for the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st century. A contextual review introduces some of the key issues in the reform debate and illustrates them with relevant examples. The distinction between the priority global health topics to be addressed by WHO and WHO’s priority roles and functions provides the basis for an analytical matrix. This matrix prompts people to reflect on how to build consensus on what the organisation is uniquely or best positioned to achieve. Recently debated reform proposals for the short, medium and long term are then structured into four categories in order to highlight important issues around priority-setting, stakeholder involvement, future financing and organisational/structural measures. The conclusion highlights the window of opportunity that now exists for a meaningful reform of WHO. It states that priority-setting is part of the solution of a more comprehensive approach to raising standards and improving accountability.

Global Health Programme