The World Health Organisation (WHO) main functions can be summed up as follows: to act as a directing and coordinating authority on international health work, to ensure valid and productive technical cooperation, and to promote research.

The objective of WHO is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health, as defined in the WHO Constitution, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


In support of its main objective, the organization has a wide range of functions, including the following:

  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work;
  • To promote technical cooperation;
  • To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services;
  • To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid, upon the request or acceptance of Governments;
  • To stimulate and advance work on the prevention and control of epidemic, endemic, and other diseases;
  • To promote, in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions, and other aspects of environmental hygiene;
  • To promote and coordinate biomedical and health services research;
  • To promote improved standards of teaching and training in the health, medical and related professions;
  • To establish and stimulate the establishment of international standards for biological, pharmaceutical, and similar products, and to standardize diagnostic procedures;
  • To foster activities in the field of mental health, especially those activities affecting the harmony of human relations.

WHO also proposes conventions, agreements, and regulations and makes recommendations about international nomenclature of diseases, causes of death, and public health practices. It develops, establishes, and promotes international standards concerning foods and biological, pharmaceutical, and similar substances.


World  Health Assembly

 The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

 WHO Executive Board

Membership: The Executive Board is one of the three organs, in addition to the World Health Assembly and the Secretariat; that are responsible for carrying out the work of WHO in order to achieve its objectives. The Board has 34 members and is composed of persons designated as government representatives, and each qualified in the field of health. Membership is assigned based on geographical representation. The Board elects its officers (Chairman, four Vice-Chairmen and one Rapporteur-together forming the “Bureau”) from among its members at its May session, with the post of Chairman being rotated among the six WHO regions.

Roles and Functions: As per article 28 of the WHO Constitution, the Board has two main roles. In its executive role, it ensures that the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly are carried out. In its advisory role, it advises the Health Assembly on any matter the latter may refer to it and provides guidance and directions to the Secretariat. It also submits to the Health Assembly for consideration and approval of a general programme of work. Members of the Board have full rights of participation and may speak before non-Members.

The Board meets twice a year, customarily in January, and in May following the Health Assembly. At each session, the Board considers reports from the Secretariat on technical and health matters, financial and administrative matters and other matters for information. Board members may present a draft resolution or decision relating to an agenda item, and it must be sent to all delegations before being discussed. Decisions are usually reached by consensus., and resolutions are rarely adopted by vote.

Programme Budget, Administration and Committee: In 2004, the Board decided to establish the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee (PBAC) through the merger of existing committees. The PBAC meets twice annually, both times immediately before the Executive Board meeting. Its role is to review, provides guidance and make recommendations to the Board on the general programme of work, programme budgets, performance and assessment reports, financial reports, reports on human resources and audit plans.

Botswana’s Membership to the WHO Executive Board: Botswana was designated to serve in the WHO Executive Board (EB), at the 69th Session of the Regional Committee meeting which was held in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo in August 2019. The membership was endorsed at the147 Session of the Executive Board and is effective from May 2020 until 2023. Previously Botswana had been an Executive Board Member for the periods; EB60-EB65 (1977-1980) and EB98-EB103 (1996-1999).



The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was established in 1994 by a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council and launched in January 1996. UNAIDS is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) with representatives of 22 governments from all geographic regions, the UNAIDS Cosponsors, and five representatives of non-governmental organizations, including associations of people living with HIV.

The current Executive Director of UNAIDS is Ms Winnie Byanyima who was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General on 14 August 2019 and assumed her functions on 1 November 2019.


The Programme Coordinating Board has the following broad functions:

  • To establish broad policies and priorities for the Joint Programme, taking into account the provisions of General Assembly resolution 47/199;
  • To review and decide upon the planning and execution of the Joint Programme. For this purpose it is kept informed of all aspects of the development of the Joint Programme and considers reports and recommendations submitted to it by the Executive Director, and the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations (CCO)
  • To review and approve the plan of action and budget for each financial period, prepared by the Executive Director and reviewed by the CCO;
  • To review proposals of the Executive Director and approve arrangements for the financing of the Joint Programme;
  • To review longer-term plans of action and their financial implications;
  • To review audited financial statements submitted by the Joint Programme;
  • To make recommendations to the Cosponsoring Organizations regarding their activities in support of the Joint Programme, including those of mainstreaming;
  • To review periodic reports that evaluate the progress of the Joint Programme towards the achievement of its goals.

UNAIDS Strategy 2016–2021

At its 37th meeting, the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board adopted a new strategy to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. The UNAIDS 2016–2021 Strategy is one of the first in the United Nations system to be aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, which set the framework for global development policy over the next 15 years, including ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The UNAIDS Strategy Beyond 2021 is currently being developed. The new global AIDS strategy will serve as a road map for the world to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, guiding key stakeholders to overcome the challenges and to ensure effective country-led AIDS responses. The new strategy, with new global targets for 2025 and resource needs estimates, will shape the next United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS and its political declaration.

Joint Coalition Global Prevention Programme 2020

As part of global efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat, UNAIDS, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and partners launched a new road map to reduce new HIV infections. The HIV prevention 2020 road map was launched at the first meeting of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition. The coalition is chaired by the Executive Directors of UNAIDS and UNFPA and brings together United Nations Member States, civil society, international organizations and other partners as part of efforts to reduce new HIV infections by 75 per cent by 2020.

Botswana joined the Global HIV Prevention Coalition in 2019 to reinvigorating HIV prevention focusing on the five (5) HIV prevention pillars, i) Adolescent Girls and Young women, ii) Key populations, iii) Comprehensive Condom programming, iv) Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision  and v) Pre-exposure Prophylaxis

First Lady Ms Neo Jane Masisi appointed UNAIDS Special Ambassador

In 2019 UNAIDS appointed First Lady of Botswana Ms Neo Jane Masisi as UNAIDS Special Special Ambassador for the empowerment and engagement of young people in Botswana. The First Lady focuses her efforts in advancing the issues and participation of adolescent girls and young women in decision making who are particularly at risk of HIV infection as well as other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. The First Lady advocates for the advancement of social protection grants, economic programmes and promoting sexual and reproductive health as vital so that women live healthy and fulfilling lives.