“Results at the country level – supporting Member States in their efforts to provide better health opportunities for their people – is at the core of what WHO does.”
Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director for the Western Pacific
The WHO Country Focus initiative sets the basis for WHO to intensify and enhance its response to the needs of countries. First mooted in 2002 at the World Health Assembly amid reform discussions on WHO’s role at the country level, it has since evolved into a major organization-wide policy. It is now a key instrument of WHO reform. The policy pivots WHO’s operations at the country level to the needs of the country. The Country Support Unit (see below) was set up towards this purpose. It acts as a facilitator and catalyst, strengthening dialogue with and between regional and country offices, and governments and partner agencies. To guide WHO’s work in countries, and outline a vision for harmonizing WHO’s work with other United Nations agencies and development partners, are Country Cooperation Strategies (CCS). They are the key instruments agreed by national authorities and WHO to focus on countries’ priorities. Each country strategy is for the medium-term (three to five years) and provides a coherent, integrated approach. Strategic planning at the country level was also undertaken at the Regional Office for the Western Pacific . These strategic frameworks outline directions for country offices and the Region’s technical units, which further developed more specific and precise results, indicators and targets. Key to the success of WHO’s work are the country offices themselves. A nexus, hub and bridge between various partners, their capacity to perform is critical. They must be able to adapt to new challenges and environments, including the emerging global trend of global health initiatives. Improving WHO performance at the country level is a key priority of the Regional Office, which has undertaken innovative measures including critical assessments of the Regional Office’s performance at the country level and subnational and inter-country programmes.
The Country Support Unit in the Western Pacific Region
The Country Support Unit (CSU) was established in August 2009 to address the Regional Director’s renewed emphasis on responding in a more targeted and effective way to the needs and requests of Member States. CSU has been tasked with supporting and improving the delivery of WHO’s activities at the country level, including strengthening health systems and primary health care. It coordinates the implementation of the Country Focus Initiative and the Placing Countries at the Centre Initiative in the WHO Western Pacific Region. In particular, CSU:
- supports effective functioning of WHO country offices in the Region;
- coordinates WHO’s strategic planning at country level (e.g. CCS development), and supports WHO country offices’ engagement in the development of United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF);
- coordinates WHO’s support to Member States in the area of Global Health Initiatives (e.g. the Global Fund); and
- leads assessments of WHO performance at country level and supports country offices to build capacity in areas of priority and need (e.g. health systems strengthening and community care through sub-national initiatives).