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Reforming the World Health Assembly
  1. Rachel Irwin
  1. Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rachel Irwin; rachel.irwin{at}

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The recent announcement to hold the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) in a virtual de minimis session was exected. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on travel, public gatherings and other aspects of daily life remain in force in many countries. The question of a digital WHA was already raised during the WHO Emergencies Press Conference on 6 March, in light of the World Bank’s decision to hold their Spring Meetings virtually.1

Aside from the formal decisions that are taken at the WHA, the event serves a significant social function with global health.2 There is web of symbiotic relationships between the formal proceedings and the array of informal and semiformal activities, such as technical briefings, side events, dinners, receptions and spontaneous meetings in the corridors of the Palais de Nations. These in-person interactions will be severely missed. However, the virtual 73rd WHA also offers an opportunity to consider how the WHA can change, and I suggest three points for consideration.

First, does the event need to be attended by over 4000 people? According to Article 11 of the WHO’s Constitution, each Member State can have no more than three delegates, but these may be accompanied by alternatives and advisors. In practice, there is a range of delegation sizes. For instance, at the …

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