[Ip-health] Lancet: The next Director-General of WHO

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Apr 29 03:18:26 PDT 2016


The next Director-General of WHO

The Lancet
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30358-0

WHO last week fired a starting pistol to launch the election for its next
Director-General. The final vote does not take place until May, 2017.
Procedures have been substantially revised since 2012, when Margaret Chan
was elected to serve a second term. It is likely that this lengthy process
will therefore be more transparent, accountable, and disputatious (and
considerably less corrupt) than past elections.

The deadline for member states to nominate candidates is Sept 22. Several
prominent individuals have already disclosed their intentions to stand.
Philippe Douste-Blazy served two terms as France's Minister of Health and
subsequently became Foreign Minister. He has been a leader on innovative
financing for health and has chaired UNITAID since 2006. Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus is currently Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was
Minister of Health from 2005–12. The African Union has endorsed him as the
sole African candidate for Director-General. Sania Nishtar, Pakistan's
former Minister of Health (among several other government portfolios), has
had a distinguished career as a civil society leader. She founded the
influential non-governmental organisation Heartfile in 1999. All three
candidates are highly accomplished global health leaders, which bodes well
for the future of WHO.

Others will no doubt be nominated. Next month's World Health Assembly will
be a useful opportunity for member states to take soundings about the
issues that will decide the election (geography, gender, and proven
political skills will likely be as important as technical expertise). In
January, 2017, the Executive Board can propose up to three names to be
considered by the World Health Assembly. Some observers believe it is
Africa's turn to lead WHO. That judgment may be fair, but we trust that
merit will also be an important quality tested by member states.

Is it now time for Margaret Chan to turn her attention to life after
Geneva? No, it is not. In her final 12 months, Dr Chan should embrace her
unprecedented freedom to speak without scruple and act without fear. Now is
her best moment to make WHO the supremely radical voice for health equity
and social justice it should be.

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