Global health ethics

The Global Summit of National Bioethics Committees

The Global Health Ethics Unit at WHO provides the permanent secretariat for the Global Summit. This is a biennial forum for national bioethics representatives to share information and experiences on ethical issues in health and public health. It is a platform for discussion and formulates consensus on a wide range of prominent ethical topics. Any government or national commission wishing to attend the next Global Summit, or to be added to the list of organizations maintained by the secretariat, should please contact us at CT_ethics@who.int

12th Global Summit of National Ethics/Bioethics Committees, Dakar, Senegal from 22-24 March 2018

The Steering Committee for the 12th biennial Summit welcomed all National Ethics Committees (NECs) to Dakar, Senegal from 22-24 March 2018. There were participants from 71 countries.

The participants in the 12th Global Summit of National Ethics/Bioethics Committees agreed on a joint “Call for Action”. WHO welcomes this statement.

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


Historical background

An increasing number of nations have created official bodies to provide advice to their executive and legislative branches, and often to the general public, about bioethics. Termed "National Commissions", "Advisory Committees", and the like, they are appointed by Chief Executives, Ministers of Health, and legislatures, to analyse and offer conclusions and recommendations about current issues in bioethics, and the ethics of health more generally, especially as such issues bear on potential needs to develop national policies and to adopt legislation.

In a few countries, the bodies that serve this function are appointed outside formal governmental structures and are sometimes composed of several advisory groups.

In November 1996, the then-existing national bioethics commissions met at a two-day "International Summit" in San Francisco, California, USA, at the invitation of the American "National Bioethics Advisory Commission" and the French "Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique pour les Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé". Subsequent meetings of the Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies, with ever-larger numbers of national committees and international organizations represented, were held in the following venues:

  • Dakar, Senegal: 22-24 March 2018
  • Berlin, Germany: 16-18 March 2016
  • Mexico, Mexico: 22-24 June 2014
  • Carthage, Tunisia: 26-28 September 2012
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore: 26-27 July 2010
  • Paris, France: 1-2 September 2008
  • Beijing, People's Republic of China: 4-5 August 2006
  • Canberra, Australia: 7-8 November 2004
  • Brasilia, Brazil: 3-4 November 2002
  • London, United Kingdom: 20-21 September 2000
  • Tokyo, Japan: 3-4 November 1998
  • San Francisco, United States of America: November 1996

ONEC database

Following the 8th Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies, the Global Health Ethics Unit at WHO started developing a database containing Opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees (ONEC). The ONEC database is hosted in WHO and is accessible through a public website. The goal of this initiative is to provide easy, free, permanent and secure access to information and opinions submitted by National Ethics Committees to other National Ethics Committees, and to the general public.