The disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption is significant and, in many countries, public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol represent a substantial health, social and economic burden. Reduction of the alcohol-attributable burden is becoming a priority area for international public health. Alcohol-related harm can be reduced through the implementation of proven alcohol strategies, including at a global level. This report of a WHO Expert Committee reviews the health and social consequences of alcohol consumption and disease burden attributable to alcohol in the context of alcohol-related harm and recent trends in alcohol consumption worldwide. Based on the reviews of available evidence, including the latest data on the contribution of alcohol consumption to the global disease burden, the Committee makes several recommendations emphasizing WHO's role in coordinating a global response, and the need for global action to reduce alcohol-related harm through effective mechanisms of international action and country support. The Committee recommends a range of strategies and policy options that have a sound evidence base and global relevance for reducing alcohol-related harm, emphasizing that their adaptation and implementation at the national and sub-national levels should take into account specific cultural and legal contexts and the local configuration of alcohol problems. The Committee also recommends that WHO should support governments, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, in developing, implementing and evaluating national and sub-national evidence-based policies, action plans and programmes. The Committee's conclusions and recommendations have significant implications for future developments in this area.