WHO Executive Board to consider revised Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel – January 4, 2010

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The World Health Organization Executive Board will meet in Geneva on January 18-23, 2010, and will review a revised Code of Practice that establishes guidelines for the ethical international recruitment of health workers.

The Executive Board first reviewed the draft Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel in January 2009. The new draft has been updated to reflect comments from the Executive Board at that meeting, as well as six regional consultations that took place in 2009.

The WHO Secretariat reports that:

Two core themes identified by the regional committees and incorporated in the revised draft
code were that Member States should strive to achieve a balance between the rights, obligations and expectations of source countries, destination countries and migrant health personnel, and that international health worker migration should have a net positive impact on the health system of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. To this end, Article 5 on mutuality of benefits has been strengthened. The revised draft text emphasizes that international health personnel should be recruited in a way that seeks to prevent a drain on valuable human resources for health. In accordance with the views expressed by some regional committees, it also recommends that countries should abstain from active international recruitment of health personnel unless equitable bilateral, regional, or multilateral agreement(s) exist to support such recruitment activities. In addition, voluntary technical and financial mechanisms to strengthen the development of health systems in developing countries and countries with economies in transition are proposed in Article 11.

The revised draft code also recommends that Member States should seek to strengthen the
balance between the rights of health personnel to leave their countries and the right of everybody to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health in order to mitigate the negative effects of migration on health systems.

In accordance with the discussion in some regional committees, the revised draft code also
recommends strengthening the provision on self-sustainability by stating that Member States should, to the extent possible, strive to meet their health personnel needs from their own health workforce. In order to make national health workforces sustainable, the revised draft code includes new provisions recommending that Member States consider a variety of measures to retain health workers.

At its meeting this month, the Executive Board will decide whether to submit the Code of Practice for inclusion in the 2010 World Health Assembly in May.

The report from the Secretariat and the revised draft (with annotation) are available online here, and more information and background on the Code of Practice is available on the WHO web site.

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