Explained: What is WHO? How does Dr Harsh Vardhan's taking charge as Executive Board chairman help

New Delhi, May 22: With Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan taking charge as the chairman of the World Health Organisation, India would now have a major role in terms of international public health. The Union Health Minister would succeed Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan, the current Chairman of the 34-member WHO Executive Board.

Amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the WHO, an agency of the United Nations that is responsible for international public health, is in the forefront of global efforts in curbing the pandemic.

At the WHO, India is a member state of the South East Asia Region. In 2019, the bloc had decided that India's nominee would be elected to the executive board for a three-year term beginning May.

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What is the WHO Executive Board?

The WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board. The specialised agency's headquarter is located at Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the WHO's website, the Board is composed of 34 members who are technically qualified in the field of health, with members being elected for three-year terms. The Health Assembly consists of 194 Member State.

The Board's chairman post is held by a rotation for one year by each of the six regional groups such as the African Region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asia Region, European Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Western Pacific Region.

In January, during the main Board meeting, the agenda for the forthcoming Health Assembly was agreed upon, and resolutions for forwarding to the Assembly are adopted. A second shorter meeting is held in May, immediately after the Health Assembly, for more administrative matters.

The primary functions of the Board is to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work. It also creates a forum for debate on health issues and to address concerns raised by the Member States.

The Assembly and the Board produce three kinds of documents - Resolutions and Decisions passed by the two bodies, Official Records as published in WHO Official publications, and Documents that are presented "in session" of the two bodies.

On January 12, 1948, India became a party to the WHO Constitution. The first session of the South East Asia Regional Committee was held on October 4-5, 1948 in the office of the Indian Minister of Health. The session was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.