[Ip-health] Politico: Final hours before race for global health chief job really begins

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Sep 23 04:33:00 PDT 2016


http://www.politico.eu/article/final-hours-before-race-global-health-chief-job-sania-nishtar-tedros-adhanom-philippe-douste-blazy/

Final hours before race for global health chief job really begins

A reformed process still leaves much in the dark.

By NATALIE HUET


Updated 9/23/16, 9:12 AM CET

Wanted: A global health expert to take on Zika, superbugs and the hesitancy
of countries to pay up to tackle these threats.

The deadline for nominations was Thursday night for the roughly
€214,000-a-year job to lead the World Health Organization, which so far has
three official applicants.

There are whispers of more candidates coming at the 11th hour to lead the
Geneva-based public health agency with 194-member countries that don’t
always agree.

“Obviously almost any U.N. job has a political dimension … behind closed
doors there are trade-offs,” said Michael Merson, director of the Duke
Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina.

So far, the candidates to succeed Margaret Chan, whose mandate as director
general ends next June, are Pakistan’s former health minister Sania
Nishtar, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, and France’s former
health and foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

Chan ran unopposed for a second term in 2011. In 2006, before she was
ultimately chosen, there were 13 candidates.

On Friday afternoon, agency staff will reveal the final candidates filed in
sealed envelopes, a spokeswoman said.

One would-be candidate says he is himself waiting to know whether his name
will be on the list at all: Joe Thomas, executive director at Partners in
Population and Development, an intergovernmental organization of 26
developing countries based in Bangladesh.

“I have been nominated, but the confirmation is subject to various
factors,” he told POLITICO in an email. He did not elaborate.

New rules for the election aim to bring more transparency and fairness to
the process — but much still happens outside of public scrutiny, in private
meetings with country representatives.

“I am pledging in my manifesto that I will voluntarily make my own
electoral campaign financing a matter of public record for scrutiny” —
candidate Sania Nishtar

Every country gets one vote, meaning a tiny Pacific island has the same
voting power as China or India. In the past countries simply rubber-stamped
the board’s pick, endorsing the single candidate it proposed.  That was the
case when Chan was selected.

The new methodology has amped up the potential for political horse-trading.
One candidate so far has hired a public affairs firm to make his case.

The money

While a separate new code of conduct encourages candidates to be
transparent about their campaign activities and funding, its
recommendations aren’t binding.

Tedros’ campaign says East African countries including Kenya and Rwanda are
pooling resources to support him, but they didn’t say how many countries or
how much money.

And the Ethiopian candidate has hired U.S.-based Mercury Public Affairs to
help him with his bid. The company would not disclose how much that
contract is worth.

“His candidacy has support from many countries outside of Africa, … in
every region of the world,” said Molly Toomey, a vice president with the
firm.

Neither of the other two officially in the running has hired an outside
firm, they said.

Douste-Blazy said his travel expenses during his campaign are paid by the
French government and said his per diem is about €100. He also said he has
paid for many hotels out of his pocket.

“I’ll disclose all my spending and urge everyone to do the same,” he said.

Pakistan’s Nishtar said she was going by the book and taking advantage of
WHO regional committee meetings for her campaign.

“Regarding the campaign budget, I am being sponsored by the government of
Pakistan and no one else,” she said. “I am pledging in my manifesto that I
will voluntarily make my own electoral campaign financing a matter of
public record for scrutiny,” she said.

No cushy job

The job is not seen as a plum U.N. assignment.

The WHO has been under fire for its response to the Ebola epidemic that
started in 2014, during which more than 11,000 people died.

A major line of criticism was that the agency was slow to react and lacked
leadership, and was bogged down by several lines of command at the regional
and global level. Ebola broke out in Guinea in March 2014, but it took the
WHO five months and more than 900 deaths before it declared it an
international public health emergency.

After a series of withering reports on its handling of the epidemic, the
194 members agreed to hike funding for emergencies by nearly 50 percent.

But Chan has had to goad members to contribute.

Earlier this month, Chan urged member countries to increase their annual
contributions. Just 20 percent of the WHO’s budget is made of this stable,
hassle-free funding; The rest comes from special sponsored projects that
usually come with strings attached. “You want us to do more work… Where is
money?” Chan warned on the last day of WHO Europe’s regional committee
meeting in Copenhagen.

What she’s calling for: A 10 percent increase in member countries’ annual
assessed contributions — for a total of $95 million. “It’s peanuts out of a
$4 billion budget,” Chan said.

Whose turn

At the same time, like many international institutions, the question of
“whose turn” it is to run the agency is in play.

Leaders in the agency’s 68-year history have come from Brazil, Canada,
Denmark, Japan, Korea, Norway and Japan. One acting director general was
from Sweden.

The African Union has thrown its support behind Tedros’ candidacy and
argues it’s time for the continent to have more high-profile international
roles.

In January 2017, WHO’s executive board will secretly vote on a short list
of up to five candidates. The board’s 34 members will then interview those
candidates and whittle the list to three names.

“It seems that people are looking at whose turn it is, what region of the
world. That’s a shame — we should be looking at who’s the best candidate we
can find in the world,” said Merson, of the Duke Global Health Institute.

In October, member countries will get to interact with the candidates on a
password-protected forum hosted on the agency’s website.

On November 1, a live forum will kick off, where all candidates will get to
make their pitch to country officials in no more than 30 minutes and then
answer questions, with the whole interview lasting no longer than an hour.
All will be out of reach of the media.

In January 2017, WHO’s executive board will secretly vote on a short list
of up to five candidates. The board’s 34 members will then interview those
candidates and whittle the list to three names to submit to the World
Health Assembly in May.

The candidates will be allowed to address the Assembly for up to 15 minutes
before the final secret electronic vote. If none gets the two-thirds
majority required to win in the first round of voting, a simple majority
will do.

The new director general will then take office July 1, 2017.

Carmen Paun contributed reporting.



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