The 68th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is taking place from 18th-26th May in Geneva, Switzerland. The Assembly has elected Dr. Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Indian Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare as its President for this session.
Nadda, in his address to the Assembly stated that “inequities of resources has a direct correlation with the inequities of health”, and mentioned Access to Medicines and diagnostics as one of the public health challenges that need to be surmounted. One of the topics that the Assembly is discussing this year is innovation and intellectual property (see the Draft Primer on Public Health and IP prepared by a team of SpicyIP bloggers to be submitted to the WHO, here). Further, IP-Watch has tweeted that India has announced a contribution of $1 million for a project on R&D for neglected diseases and $100,000 for the project on substandard medicines.
Nadda’s political career began in Himachal Pradesh. Today he is “seen as a member of the powerful troika” along with Modi and Amit Shah. Given that the Indian Government’s stand on IP has been controversial of late especially from a public health point of view (thanks to the mysterious ways of the IP Think Tank and Draft IPR Policy, and more recently, Modi’s comment that India’s IP laws are not on par with “global standards”), his comments at the Assembly so far are good to hear.
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the WHO, which determines the policies of the WHO, appoints the Director-General, supervises finances and take any measures to further the Objectives of the WHO. Although it is undoubtedly quite powerful, I was unable to find any mention of the powers of the President of the Assembly in the WHO Constitution, making it difficult to comment on the specific impact that his election will have on the Assembly.