Seventy-third World Health Assembly

18 May 2020
72nd WHA

Washington, D.C., May 18, 2020 (PAHO/WHO)—Every year in May, hundreds of delegates travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet and make decisions on global health. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2020 will instead be virtual, with a shortened agenda. It will take place on 18-19 May.

At WHA 2020, Member States will deliver statements focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic, report their progress in fighting COVID-19, share knowledge on the evolving situation, and consider a draft resolution on COVID-19. Exchanging unique perspectives, as well as hearing from leading experts in various fields, is crucial to navigating the coming months and years, not just as individual countries but as a global community.

The Director-General will deliver a major address on the COVID-19 pandemic, the international response, and on WHO’s mandate, transformation and impact. He will welcome a number of high-level speakers as well.

The program will cover:

  • Opening of the Health Assembly by WHA 72 President
  • Election of the President and five Vice-Presidents
  • Presidential address
  • Statements by invited speakers
  • Address by the Director-General (on COVID-19 pandemic response)
  • Statements by Heads of delegation on COVID-19 pandemic
  • EB: election
  • Closure/suspension (The WHA will consider suspending and reconvening later in the year to consider the remaining items on the agenda)

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Why does WHO and WHA matter so much right now?

As countries fight their own battles against the same virus, WHO’s presence has never been more essential. As the authority on health issues within the United Nations system, WHO works to connect the best minds from around the world to solve this crisis together. 

Different countries will face different outcomes from COVID-19. WHO is working to gather data and continue educating the world on the virus as the situation evolves. All WHO’s work is focussed on promoting the roles of evidence-based science, guided by the United Nations’ principles of neutrality, impartiality, human rights, and equity.

COVID-19 threatens the health and wellbeing of everyone on our planet. So it requires a rapid, coordinated, evidence-based global response. The World Health Organization is overseeing that response and the efforts to protect all people, everywhere. WHO is also coordinating the search for scientific solutions to prevent, test, and treat the virus. And for the benefit of future generations, WHO is working to make sure the world invests in health systems to prevent and prepare for future outbreaks.

What is the World Health Assembly?

Every year, delegates from all 194 Member States that make up WHO gather to agree to the Organization’s priorities, leadership, and budgets. At the Assembly, new health goals are set, and tasks are assigned in order to reach those goals.  

Delegations consider and provide guidance on policies and courses of action, which are then coordinated and overseen by the secretariat. While WHO can make recommendations and suggest courses of action, particularly in unprecedented times of global health risk, it is ultimately up to each government to determine their response and act upon it. The WHO secretariat does not have the power to enforce any action from individual Member States.


Please note that all documents are available in 6 official languages of the United Nations.