Mara M. Burr, JD, LL.M
Director, Multilateral Relations
Office of the Secretary
Office of Global Affairs
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The Multilateral Relations Office is a critical component of HHS's global work—it advances U.S. health and human services priorities, develops U.S. global health policy positions, and strengthens international health standards by engaging in multilateral global health diplomacy with a host of international organizations and other key partners. The Multilateral Relations Office represents the United States in critical global health negotiations and policy discussions on topics ranging from strengthening the International Health Regulations to non-communicable diseases and interpersonal violence. It serves as the primary liaison for U.S. Government engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its six regional offices, including the Regional Offices of the Americas and Western Pacific, where the U.S. holds voting status. The Multilateral Relations team includes the HHS Health Attaché at the U.S. Mission to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, who works with counterparts from around the world to advance U.S. global health and foreign policy priorities.
What We Do
- The Multilateral Relations Office coordinates the U.S. participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) and governing body meetings of the World Health Organization. The WHA, as the governing body of the WHO, meets each May at the United Nations in Switzerland, and is attended by delegations from all 194 Member States. During the Assembly, countries agree to resolutions, adopt action plans, supervise finances, review and approve the proposed budgets, discuss key public health issues, and determine the policies of the organization.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services leads the U.S. delegation to WHA.
World Health Organization Strengthening
The COVID-19 resolution, adopted at the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA), calls for global cooperation, unity and solidarity and confirms commitment to meaningful change. Participating countries welcome the announcement of WHO on 9 July 2020 to launch an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation by the 'independent panel for pandemic preparedness and response' (IPPR) of the global COVID-19 response.
The roadmap below sets out areas where there is an opportunity to strengthen the WHO by increasing accountability and its ability to be impartial and objective, improve transparency and its overall effectiveness, by providing it with a more comprehensive set of tools that are fit-for-purpose to address new and emerging threats
- Reviewing COVID-19 Response and Strengthening the WHO's Global Emergency Preparedness and Response WHO ROADMAP
World Health Organization Executive Board Special Session on COVID-19
On Monday October 5, 2020, the World Health Organization hosted a special session of its Executive Board (EB) to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and response. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir led a small delegation from the United States attending the meeting through a virtual platform. In addition to HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development participated in the EB Special Session. The EB Special Session agenda included a report by the Director General and the Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme as well as other COVID-19 focused items. While the U.S. government prepares for U.S. withdrawal from the WHO, the United States will in the interim continue to contribute to the WHO strengthening discussion and advocate for a WHO that is independent, impartial and transparent in all of its operations and activities.
Public Private Partnerships
In the WHO Independent High-level Commission on NCDs December 2019 report, It's Time to Walk the Talk, a recommendation was included that stated: "WHO should increase its engagement with the private sector to promote their effective and meaningful contribution to global NCDs targets and goals, and to provide technical support to Member States to increase the capacity needed for such engagements to national NCD responses." In light of HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan's participation and leadership on the Commission, and his strong support for this particular recommendation, HHS commissioned a guide for how governments can implement public-private partnerships. The goal of this guide is help accelerate implementation of the Commission's key recommendations.
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