Global health ethics
The United Nations Inter-Agency Committee on Bioethics (UNIACB) brings together different inter-governmental organizations within and outside the United Nations system and provides a forum of exchange of information in the field of bioethics and related issues, with special attention to human rights. The objective of the Global Ethics and Bioethics Week (GEBW) is to address critical issues around bioethics and to facilitate dialogue and awareness between participants from multiple and diverse backgrounds and sectors. This year, the GEBW will address the important role of bioethics and ethical reflection in research and technological applications to promote human well-being and respect for human rights.
July 2019 - The newly formed committee is seeking views from all relevant stakeholders on the themes of its work, who should be involved, what governance measures might look like, particular opinions held by different communities, as well as anything else you feel they should know. Contributions made via the portal will be collated and discussed at the next meeting of the Committee.
28 June 2019 - Today, TDR and WHO launched a new training course on ethics in implementation research to ensure appropriate engagement with research subjects and relevant communities and to safeguard against any potential harm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ethical issues in global health
Read through the public health areas where WHO is involved in providing leadership and guidance on the ethical issues involved.
- Big data and artificial intelligence
- Good governance in medicines
- Health Systems and Implementation Research
- Human Genome editing
- Human organ and tissue transplantation
- Outbreaks and emergencies
- Research ethics
- Tuberculosis care and control
- Vector-borne diseases
WHO Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC)
Submit a proposal to the ERC
- ERC review process
- Guidelines on submitting research proposals for ethics review
- Guidance for submissions of documents
Call for applications
Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics
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
Global Health Ethics Unit
Department of Information, Evidence and Research
World Health Organization
20, Avenue Appia
CH-1211 Genève 27