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World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO constitution, which serves as its founding document, was adopted at the International Health Conference, held in New York from the 19th of June to the 22nd of July, 1946. This document, signed by representatives from 61 countries, went into effect on the 7th of April, 1948, which is considered to be the founding date of WHO.

Today, WHO is one of the largest UN agencies with 194 member states. It deals with all matters related to health, and its stated Constitutional objective is “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”. Health, however, is far more than just the absence of disease. According to WHO’s core principles, health “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Owing to this broad approach, WHO embarks upon a wide range of activities to promote and protect the health of all peoples. The other principles of WHO are:

• The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

• The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.

• The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.

• Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of disease, especially communicable disease, is a common danger.

• Healthy development of the child is of basic importance; the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment is essential to such development.

• The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.

• Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people.

• Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.


Guided by these principles, WHO’s work spans from strengthening health systems and preventing and controlling epidemics to promoting Universal Health Coverage, addressing the Social Determinants of Health as well as to fighting climate change. For a list of WHO’s key functions, see Article 2 of its Constitution.

The headquarters of WHO is in Geneva. Additionally, WHO has six regional offices as well as a large number of country offices, including the one in Tallinn. In fact, WHO is the only UN organization, which has an office in Tallinn.

Estonia joined WHO in 1993 and is a member of the European region. The European Regional Office is located in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Estonia is an active member of WHO and was a member of the Executive Board from 2009-2012, represented by Dr Maris Jesse. In 2015, Estonia represented the European Region in WHO’s governance reform working group. From 2015-2016 Estonia was the European regional coordinator in Geneva, represented by Taavo Lumiste. To find out more about Estonia’s work in WHO, read the article on health diplomacy in the magazine Diplomaatia (article in Estonian).

WHO webpage

WHO European Office

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

UNAIDS is the primary global actor dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Its role is to lead, strengthen and support a broad based response to the epidemic in order to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. UNAIDS is comprised of the UNAIDS secretariat and its partners, including a number of UN organizations.

UNAIDS homepage

On matters related to health, the Mission’s key partners are the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, the Estonian National Institute for Health Development and the Estonian Agency of Medicines. We are also stepping up our cooperation with academic institutions, as well as with partners from various economic, developmental and social fields.


© Permanent Mission of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations Office and other International Organisations in Geneva Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28A, Geneva
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