Privileges and Immunities of the World Health Organization

Practice and Challenges

in International Organizations Law Review
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This paper presents a brief overview of the World Health Organization’s experience with privileges and immunities, focusing on the sources of its privileges and immunities and the challenges encountered in asserting them and securing their respect. This overview will demonstrate how complex and sometimes elusive the legal protection afforded to the WHO can be. Although the rationale for the WHO’s privileges and immunities is constitutionally founded on the notion of functional necessity,1 the scope and limits of its functions can be blurred or shifting. While the WHO has not faced the dramatic challenges to or denials of its privileges and immunities that other organizations have encountered, the trend of progressive erosion of legal protection in the name of accountability, democratic control by national courts, the protection of human rights and shifting perceptions of the ‘added value’ of international organizations may eventually require a conscious and strategic revision by the international community of the model of international cooperation represented by international organizations.




Opened for signature 21 November 1947, 33 unts p. 261 (entered into force 2 December 1948).


Reinisch (2000), supra note 18, at p. 222.


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