World Health Organization, WHO, founded in 1948, is the United Nations specialized agency for health. The WHO is headquartered in Geneva.


The two main functions of the WHO are to

  1. lead and coordinate international work to attain the highest possible level of health
  2. support efforts of the Member States to improve health through various forms of technical cooperation.

Health is defined in the WHO Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. 

The WHO acts as the guiding and coordinating body for international health work to

  • combat disease, especially key infectious diseases
  • monitor outbreaks of infectious disease
  • promote the general health of the peoples of the world
  • perform research on illness
  • support health education
  • support improvement of the health systems of member states.


The WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, which is composed of representatives from the Member States of the WHO. The main tasks are to approve the WHO programme and the budget for the following two years, to decide major policy questions and to elect the Director-General.

The Executive Board facilitates the work of the World Health Assembly by setting the agenda, preparing resolutions and giving advice.

The Secretariat, headed by the Director-General, is the administrative centre of the WHO. The Member States are grouped into six regions. Each region has a regional office:

  1. WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region
  2. WHO European Region
  3. WHO Headquarters
  4. WHO Region of the Americas
  5. WHO South-East Asia Region
  6. WHO Western Pacific Region

Most developing countries also have a country representative. The decentralized organization is to encourage close cooperation between Member States and provide for regional specific needs.


More on UN and WHO

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
Last modified: 2024-02-15