WHO's evaluation of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property

In May 2008, the 61st World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the seminal global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property.

As stated in its aim, the global strategy on public health, innovation and intellectual property serves to

promote new thinking on innovation and access to medicines and, based on the recommendations of the report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health, provide a medium-term framework for securing an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven essential health research and development. (Source: WHO global strategy and plan of action on intellectual property, public health and innovation, 2008

Nearly eight years after the adoption of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property (GSPOA), the WHO is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation and overall programme review of the GSPOA (EB/138/38) as mandated by WHA 68.18.

In prior WHO discussions held in May 2013 (EB 133), Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, (Assistant Director-General - Health Systems and Innovation, WHO) noted that developing a framework for an independent, objective evaluation with "appropriate methodology" of the implementation of the GSPOA was "complex" and indicated the Secretariat's preference to "use a consultancy firm with appropriate knowledge and experience" (Source: EB136: WHO Evaluation of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property, December 2014).

The 138th session of WHO Executive Board (25 January 2016 - 30 January 2016) will discuss the secretariat's progress update (EB138/38) on the comprehensive evaluation of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property.

The document informs the Board that the WHO has established an ad hoc evaluation management group as instructed by WHA 68.18:

6. As outlined in resolution WHA68.18, this ad hoc evaluation management group is composed of six independent external subject matter experts, selected to ensure equitable geographical representation and gender balance and in consultation with the Regional Directors, and two evaluation experts from the United Nations Evaluation Group. The members of the group are: Professor Rajae El Aouad (Morocco); Dr Bernardo Hernández Prado (Mexico); Dr Nadia Khelef (France); Professor Bongani Mayosi (South Africa); Professor Kathryn McPherson (New Zealand); Dr Viroj Tangcharoensathien (Thailand); and two senior evaluators – one from UNESCO and one from UNAIDS – representing the United Nations Evaluation Group.

The secretariat's document notes that an "external independent evaluator was selected following an open tender" but does not disclose the identify of the individual, firm or organization that won the bid. Presumably, the additional short report "containing the key points from the inception report and comments from the ad hoc evaluation management group" will disclose the identify of the external independent evaluator of the WHO global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property.

7. An external independent evaluator was selected following an open tender. The request for proposal was published in various publicly accessible databases, including the United Nations Global Marketplace, and was also circulated in major networks of evaluation professionals across the world. The bids that were received were assessed by the members of the ad hoc evaluation management group on the basis of a structured template and the evaluation team was selected with the agreement of all members.

8. The evaluation team will be preparing the evaluation inception report, for review and comments by the ad hoc evaluation management group. An additional short report, containing the key points from the inception report and comments from the ad hoc evaluation management group, will be presented as an addendum to this report.

At its adoption in May 2008, the GSPOA held great promise, as noted by Santiago Luis Bento Fernandez Alcazar, Minister, Head of the Department of International Affairs, Ministry of Health Brazil:

Perhaps the most important result of the adoption of the Global Strategy and Plan of Action by the 61st World Health Assembly is a mind shift in the perception of the complex relation of public health and intellectual property. There has been and undeniable advance in accepting concepts that will have a profound consequence on how to deal with important matters such as, for example, the recognition that the IP regime is limited in its scope to deliver products that are crucial for developing countries, as well as the urgent need to rethink the basis for innovation. There is in this recognition an undisclosed acceptance of a crisis in the R&D and innovation cycle in which WHO, in its strengthened role, will have a strategic and central role. And all this was agreed by consensus, which shows the workings of the empowerment of developing countries in delicate and difficult matters in multilateral diplomacy. (Source: Views on the 61st World Health Assembly adoption of Global Strategy on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, 2008)

The comprehensive evaluation and overall programme review of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property will reveal if the implementation of the GSPOA has matched these great expectations. Consequently, much is at stake, and WHO member states should actively monitor the development of the methodology used to assess the GSPOA. The final report of the overall programme review will be presented to WHA 71 in 2018 through the 142nd session of the Executive Board (January 2018).