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Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Health - Permanent Mission of Finland, Geneva : Fields of activities : Health


Mission Permanente de la Finlande
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The World Health Organization WHO

WHO is the most important international partner in all related to the development and assessment of Finnish health policy. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has the main body responsible for the cooperation between Finland - the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other Ministries included - and WHO. Other national health institutions also facilitate cooperation between WHO and experts.

WHO was founded in 1984 and it has established itself as an esteemed and trustworthy international actor. The objective of WHO, set out in its Constitution, is to ensure that everyone has the highest attainable state of health. Health matters play an important role in the Millennium Development Goals; three out of the eight goals are directly related to health. These goals deal with reducing infant mortality, improving mothers' health care and enhancing the effectiveness of the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases.

The supreme decision-making body for WHO is the World Health Assembly which is held each year in May. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. The Executive Board, which is composed of 34 members, prepares the agenda for the forthcoming Health Assembly and gives effect to its decisions. Finland actively takes part in the work of the main organs of the Organization and issues that are important to Finland are promoted not only bilaterally but also together with other member states of the EU and Nordic countries.  Furthermore, the Permanent Mission maintains close contact with the WHO Secretariat also throughout the intervals between meetings. Active participation in varied preparative meetings is an essential part of its everyday work.

Dr Margaret Chan from China assumed the post of the Director-General of WHO in 2007. Her mains fields of activities the improvement of maternal and child health in Africa, the impacts of the climate change on health and health as a security question and a complex development question. A global influenza preparedness plan and cooperation with other UN organizations are among the main tasks of WHO at the moment.

Defeating the spate of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), successful work in natural catastrophes in Asia and the concern about the spread of contagious diseases have increased WHO's political weight in the eyes of decision-makers and the general public. Health has also been raised high on the agenda of sectors other than those traditionally handling health issues, and international funding to the health sector has increased exceptionally during the past few years. The importance of health as a security matter has been growing in recent years. Director-General Chan's successful term has increased the belief in the capacities of the Organization. WHO is making its governance more efficient through many reforms for which the coming years will be decisive.

Finland was one of the pioneer countries developing public health care at the time and the programme 'Health for Everyone by 2000' and after that its sequel 'Health for Everyone by 2015'. In 2008, it contributed two million euros to WHO from its development aid assets. Chronic disease prevention, mental health work, smoking, healthy ways of life and the development of basic health care are important issues to Finland. It played an important role in the launch of the negotiations on The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. In addition, it has actively taken part in the prevention of contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and in the development of new vaccines. Preparedness to a possible global influenza pandemic, achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, the progress of the UN reform and the follow-up of a working group on improving developing countries' access to drugs are the current issues relevant to Finland.

UNAIDS: The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

The most enormous and conspicuous problem in the area of global health since the 1990s has been the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When the devastating impact of the disease on sustainable development started to unfold, the UN decided to adopt a fresh approach to the issue and set up UNAIDS in 1996. UNAIDS orchestrates and coordinates the UN's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. This Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS brings together ten UN organizations: the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF),  the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),  the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  the World Health Organization (WHO),  the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the  World Food Programme (WFP), the  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank. The second term of the Executive Director, Belgian Dr Peter Piot will end at the end of the year 2008. UNAIDS is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board (PCB), which meets twice a year. It consists of representatives of 22 governments, the UN cosponsor organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in accordance with the rotation of seats. Member countries form into country groups. The Programme Coordinating Board deals with current issues and specific themes chosen beforehand. Finland's last board membership took place in 2005, after which it has continued to maintain close contact with the Secretariat, supporting it in its demanding and challenging assignment. The Permanent Mission in Geneva plays an important role as a link between Finnish experts and the Secretariat of UNAIDS.

Finland has given strong support to the work of UNAIDS from the very beginning. At the moment, it is one of the principal donors of the programme with other Nordic countries and an important partner in the field of politics. In 2008 Finland's contribution to UNAIDS was 7.5 million Euros. Finland allocates a part of its contribution to the work among women and girls living with AIDS and particularly emphasizes the importance of prevention and an approach based on human rights in its political outlines.

Following themes are of great importance to Finland: the commitment of UNAIDS to the UN reform, comprehensive prevention and treatment, promotion of widespread knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS and the position of women, children and other vulnerable groups and individuals.  

UNAIDS is organizing an evaluation whose objective is to show what the additional value of UNAIDS in the international field is, and how it should develop its function to be able to meet long-term needs.

Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis GFATM

Global Fund was created in 2002 to direct new resources especially to HIV/AIDS work and to bring together a great number of actors including the private sector. The main idea was to create an innovative financing mechanism attracting new donors from different sector of civil society besides the traditional partners in development cooperation, and to mobilize resources which would not be directed to development aid otherwise.  It emphasizes that it operates as a financial instrument, not an implementing entity. WHO is in charge of normative work and UNAIDS in larger strategies. The GFTAM is the biggest international financier of the programs to fight tuberculosis and malaria even though more than half of the wherewithal is allocated to HIV/AIDS programmes. The Fund is directed by French Michel Kazatchkine. The supreme governing body is the Board, consisting of altogether 23 representatives of governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and affected communities.

Finland joined the Global Fund in 2006 with a contribution of 3 million euros. In 2007 our contribution went up to 3.5 million euros. Participation in the Fund allows Finland to influence the governance of the programmes to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Finland actively follows WHO's cooperation with UNAIDS. The Fund emphasizes the importance of medical care even though more and more stress has been laid on prevention and strengthening of health care systems in recent years.



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Updated 12/9/2008

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