Global health ethics

croud crossing a street

Membership of the WHO expert advisory committee on developing global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing

14 February 2019 - The World Health Organization is pleased to announce the membership of the WHO Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing.
The Committee will examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges associated with human gene editing. The aim will be to advise and make recommendations on appropriate governance mechanisms for human genome editing.
The Committee will first meet on 18-19 March in Geneva, to review the current landscape and discuss and agree the workplan for the coming 12-18 months.
The Committee was formed after an open call for members. Members will serve in an independent and personal capacity and represent a broad range of disciplines, expertise, and experience. All have been assessed for potential conflict of interests by WHO based on information disclosed on the WHO Declaration of Interest form.

Ryoji Iwata @splash

WHO Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for the Governance and Oversight of Human Gene Editing

20 December 2018 - The Global Health Ethics Team has issued a call for the world’s best experts to join WHO's "Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for the Governance and Oversight of Human Gene Editing". The Committee is tasked with reviewing the current landscape of activities associated with human gene editing, with a view to advising WHO on appropriate oversight and governance mechanisms for these technologies. Gene editing technologies hold huge potential for health benefits but raise complex ethical, social and legal challenges.

Nominations close on the 11 of January and the Committee is expected to be constituted shortly after, with a first meeting held in February.


Ethical considerations for research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health

12 August 2018 - International Youth Day is an opportunity to celebrate young people, as well as to raise awareness of the challenges and problems young people around the world face. This year, the theme for International Youth Day is #SafeSpaces4Youth. Assuring safe and secure physical spaces for young people is a key priority. Equally as important is assuring them safe and secure environments for them to meaningfully participate in research and programmes that affect them. Researchers, among others, have an obligation to cultivate safe environments for young people. Within the research context, this begins first and foremost with ethical practice.

CC by Ayertosco
Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone

Release of the French translation of Guidance for Managing Ethical Issues 
in Infectious Disease Outbreaks

November 2018 - This guidance was developed through an expert consultation in response to challenges posed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and was first released in English in 2016. The guidance draws on prior documents produced by the WHO and the GHE team which are cited. The guidance aims to provide a comprehensive resource for addressing ethical challenges occurring during infectious diseases outbreaks, ranging from government responsibilities and the health system response, to challenges at the bedside and in the community. This guidance is intended to support the upholding of ethical principles of public health and clinical medicine in decision making, health care delivery and the conduct of surveillance and research during an infectious disease outbreak.

WHO/S. Saporito

About ethics and health

The Global Health Ethics Unit provides a focal point for the examination of ethical issues raised by activities throughout the Organization. The unit also supports Member States in addressing ethical issues that arise in their own countries. This includes a range of global bioethics topics; from public health surveillance to developments in genomics, and from research with human beings to fair access to health services.

This unit’s work is particularly important in the context of contemporary health challenges and raises and addresses difficult questions in areas such as resource allocation, new technologies, decision-making in clinical care and public health.

WHO Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC)

The ERC ensures that WHO only supports research of the highest ethical standards. The ERC reviews all research projects, involving human participants supported either financially or technically by WHO.

Submit a proposal to the ERC

Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics

The Global Health Ethics unit works together with the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics. These institutions represent a valuable resource as an extended and integral arm of WHO's capacity to implement its ethics mandate.

The Global Summit of National Bioethics Committees

The Global Health Ethics unit at WHO provides the permanent secretariat for the Global Summit of National Bioethics Committees. This is a biennial forum for national bioethics representatives to share information and experiences on ethical issues in health and public health.

Latest Global Summit

The 12th biennial Summit took place in Dakar, Senegal from 22-24 March 2018. There were participants from 71 countries.

Next Global Summit

The next Global Summit will take place in Portugal in 2020.


Video: Ethics matters in health

Quiz and Q&As

Ethics Platform

This platform provides the principles governing such decision-making, how to employ them, and how can one integrate ethics in all aspects of the outbreak response. It includes several ethics resources that can be used in the day-to-day work of anyone involved in outbreak response.

Contact us

Global Health Ethics Unit
Department of Information, Evidence and Research
World Health Organization
20, Avenue Appia
CH-1211 Genève 27

Ethics in the WHO regions

Ethics at the WHO