World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO logoWhat is WHO?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.

About WHO

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
(Constitution of the WHO)

In the 21st century, responsibility for health lies at various levels – local, national, regional as well as global. It is also a shared responsibility between the health and other sectors, involving a wide range of health concerns – equitable access to health and health care, protection from health threats, addressing health determinants etc.

More than 8000 people from more than 150 countries work in 147 WHO country offices, six WHO Regional Offices and at the Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition to medical doctors, public health specialists, scientists and epidemiologists, WHO staff include people trained to manage administrative, financial, and information systems, as well as experts in statistics, economics, emergency relief, communications and advocacy. They:

  • Provide leadership on matters critical to health and engage in partnerships where joint action is needed;
  • Shape the research agenda and stimulate the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
  • Set norms and standards and promote and monitor their implementation;
  • Articulate ethical and evidence-based policy options;
  • Provide technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
  • Monitor the health situation and assess health trends.

WHO in Brussels

WHO’s Brussels office facilitates the relations with the European Union (EU) and its institutions. The main WHO partner among the EU institutions is the European Commission (EC), whereby WHO works with various Commission services, depending on the common agenda, vision and values. The WHO Office at the European Union also builds and strengthens alliances for health with a rich and diverse variety of Brussels-based stakeholders involved in health and health-related issues – professional associations, civil society, media, countries representations and the private sector.

The role of the WHO office in Brussels is to further foster and improve these partnerships by means of:

  • Observing the EU health agenda – monitoring, analyzing and interpreting health-related developments in the EU context;
  • Disseminating information exchange between WHO and the various EU and EU-related partners;
  • Supporting the European Commission and other EU institution on health matters, promoting a Health in All Policies approach;
  • Facilitating contacts and strengthening links between, on the one hand, the EU actors and Brussels-based stakeholders, and all WHO offices and programmes (country-based or technical), on the other;
  • Support the establishment or updating of formal agreements for cooperation between the EC and various parts of WHO; and
  • Communication and advocacy, including a proactive yet accurately targeted and tailored WHO involvement in the Brussels EU health debate.

The Brussels office also works to ensure a balanced approach in the EC-WHO cooperation, which incorporates three levels – global, European (i.e. the WHO European Region that comprises of 53 countries) as well as within countries

WHO and the European Union

The European Union is an increasingly important actor in global and international affairs beyond Europe and a strong supporter of the UN system, particularly with regard to global security, development and humanitarian assistance. This includes strong support to health and to WHO’s work both globally and within Europe.

The European Commission has long-standing bilateral relations with the WHO. The current cooperation with the European Commission is based on an exchange of letters concluded in 2000, which aimed to consolidate and intensify cooperation between the two organizations. It identifies a number of priority areas—including health information, communicable diseases, tobacco control, environment and health, sustainable health development, health research—and outlines practical procedures for co-operation. It embraces the global dimension of the cooperation, as well as the benefits that an enhanced, focused and coherent EC-WHO cooperation brings for the common WHO-EU Member States.

At the political level, annual meetings take place between the EU Health Commissioner and the WHO Director General and the WHO Regional Director for Europe. At the technical level, senior officials meetings are likewise held annually, involving officials from various EC Directorates-General and from WHO offices in Geneva, Copenhagen and Brussels.

More information on the cooperation between WHO and the European Commission can be found on the Public Health website of the European Commission’s Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection, on the WHO/Europe website and on WHO Headquarters website

Contact information:


World Health Organization (WHO)
Office at the European Union
UN House
Rue Montoyer, 14
B-1000 Brussels
Tel:  +32 (2) 506 46 60
Fax: +32 (2) 506 46 66
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

World Health Organization (WHO)
Avenue Appia 20
CH – 1211 Geneva 27
Tel.: +41 (22) 791 21 11
Fax.: +41 (22) 791 31 11

WHO Regional Office for Europe
World Health Organization
Scherfigsvej 8
DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø
Telephone: +45 39 17 17 17
Fax: +45 39 17 18 18
E-mail: [email protected]

WHO African Region
WHO Region of the Americas
WHO South-East Asia Region
WHO European Region
WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region
WHO Western Pacific Region
Liaison and other offices


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