All for Health and Health for All?

Three CBM representatives stand together, smiling, in front of a backdrop displaying the World Health Organization logo. They are attending the 77th World Health Assembly, showcasing CBM's commitment to inclusive health initiatives and global health policy advocacy.

At the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, CBM’s Senior Ear and Hearing Care CBID Advisor Dr. Diego Santana-Hernández, Advocacy Officer Miriam Maier, and Policy Advisor Jan-Thilo Klimisch represented CBM to reaffirm our commitment to inclusive health initiatives and global health policy advocacy.

The 77th World Health Assembly brought more progress than expected.

In view of the current destabilising global conflicts and their consequences, such as the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Palestine conflict, expectations in the run-up to the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) at the end of May were more than low. Even before the start of the annual meeting of all WHO member states in Geneva, it was clear that no agreement would be reached on a new international pandemic treaty – despite two years of intensive negotiations and, most recently, many last-minute extra meetings. Such a pandemic agreement would be highly important in distributing protective equipment, diagnostics, and vaccines more equitably worldwide in the event of another pandemic, which, according to most experts, is sure to come. And to make medical devices accessible to all people – not least people with disabilities, who were particularly neglected during the recent COVID-19 pandemic and disproportionately affected by its adverse effects.

Revised International Health Regulations

The negotiations on a pandemic agreement have not been finalised, although they will continue. Nevertheless, the WHA achieved an important breakthrough and agreed on revised International Health Regulations. This achievement, which was previously uncertain, now represents important progress in better preparing the world for the next pandemic.

WHO investment case 2025-2028

In addition, the WHO presented a new comprehensive work plan for the next four years (2025-2028), which considers persons with disabilities several times specifically and, for the first time ever, made an investment case under the title “All for Health, Health for All”. This will help to raise the billions needed to realise the goals of the World Health Organization over the period in question. In addition to four billion Euros from the regular contributions of its member states, WHO calculates that it will need a further 7 billion euros. Brazil, Germany, France and Norway have now announced at the WHA that they will co-host the replenishment process events. How much money will ultimately be raised in times of tight budgets remains to be seen.

WHA resolutions on social participation and mental health

From CBM’s point of view, it was particularly pleasing to see the great emphasis was placed on the core issues of our mandate during this year's WHA.

For the first time, a resolution on social participation for universal health coverage was passed. Persons with disabilities are explicitly highlighted, which we advocated for together with our partners in the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC). The central message of the resolution is that local civil society, affected groups, and self-advocacy organisations must be continuously involved in the planning, implementing, and monitoring of health measures.

Another very positive resolution was passed on the integration of mental health and psychosocial support in emergency response.

Towards a new resolution on ear & hearing care

At this year's WHA, there were also highly acclaimed side events on eye health, access to assistive technologies and rehabilitation in humanitarian settings, the fight against neglected tropical diseases and, in general, health equity for people with disabilities, in which we were involved or which were of special relevance for us. An exceptional highlight for the three-person CBM delegation composed of senior Ear and Hearing Care CBID advisor Diego Santana-Hernández and the two advocacy officers Miriam Maier and Jan-Thilo Klimisch was the successful start of a process to develop a new WHA resolution on ear & hearing care.

For this purpose, CBM organised a hybrid side event with the support of the International Federation of Otorhinolaryngological Societies (IFOS), the International Society of Audiology (ISA) and the permanent missions of Slovakia and the Philippines. Different representatives from the WHO NCDs Department, ATscale and many other partners such as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH), World Hearing Forum (WHF) and the Global Coalition of Parents of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (GPODHH) contributed to a successful discussion with over 200 participants, including numerous government representatives.

The following day, Slovakia, as a current member of the WHO Executive Board, officially submitted its pledge to lead the initiative to propose and develop a new WHA resolution on ear and hearing care and explicitly referred to the cooperation with CBM. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” commented Diego Santana-Hernández. This will also apply to the further negotiation process so that the new WHA resolution can actually be passed next year.

Watch the recording of the 77th World Health Assembly side event on Advancing Ear & Hearing Care for All: Towards a New WHA Resolution