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GAO Report on World Health Organization Reform Efforts Released

Press Release

Location: Washington DC

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) today released a U.S. Government Accountability Office report entitled, "World Health Organization: Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced."

"As the World Health Organization's largest financial contributor, the U.S. must make every effort to ensure it uses its resources effectively. I am pleased that the State Department has established an assessment tool to measure the World Health Organization's efforts to improve accountability and transparency, but I encourage the State Department to build on these efforts by implementing GAO's recommendation," said Senator Akaka.

The GAO report shows that the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a robust reform agenda, but the U.S. Department of State needs to take steps to improve how it measures the WHO's reform implementation efforts in order to effectively advocate for reforms. The WHO is the United Nations' (UN) lead agency on global health and is primarily responsible for establishing international health standards and guidelines, monitoring and assessing health trends, and providing technical support to countries.

The GAO study reveals:
The WHO's reform agenda incorporates stakeholders' input, but challenges such as the availability of resources and the degree of support and commitment from WHO stakeholders could affect the implementation of reform proposals;
The U.S. delegation to the WHO has advocated for reforms, such as setting international health standards, improving internal and external oversight mechanisms, and budgeting, planning, and human resources reforms; and
The State Department created the United Nations Transparency and Accountability Initiative to monitor and assess UN agency performance and progress in eight goals related to accountability and transparency; however, it is unclear how State determines whether the WHO has reached benchmarks.

GAO recommended that the Secretary of State provide better guidance on using its assessment tool for monitoring the WHO's progress in implementing reforms, including requiring the collection and submission of supporting documentation. State generally agreed with the recommendation.

Senator Akaka is Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.

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