[Ip-health] The Lancet: Five candidates in the running to head UNAIDS after Sidibé

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Jun 27 23:37:10 PDT 2019


John Zarocostas

Published:June 29, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31514-4

A shortlist of five candidates—including four people from Africa—are in the
race to become Executive Director of the UN agency. John Zarocostas reports.
Five candidates have been shortlisted in a fast-track selection process to
appoint the next Executive Director of UNAIDS.
The previous head of the agency, Michel Sidibé, stepped down from office
ahead of schedule to become Minister of Health of Mali in May. In December,
an independent panel had faulted his management of a high-profile sexual
harassment case, although many said he had been made a scapegoat, calling
the panels' finding “not fair and credible”.
The successful candidate will need to have a combination of organisational
leadership skills, political expertise, and diplomatic and advocacy skills
to support the UNAIDS Secretariat, senior diplomats close to the search
told *The Lancet*.
A list of five candidates was compiled by a selection committees and is
expected to be discussed by members of the UNAIDS ruling Programme
Coordinating Board (PCB) as *The Lancet* went to press. Candidates to lead
the agency, as obtained by *The Lancet* from diplomatic sources, are Salim
Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in
South Africa, Sani Aliyu, Director-General of Nigeria's National Agency for
the Control of AIDS; Chris Beyrer, Professor of epidemiology and
international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Health, and past President of the International AIDS Society; Winnie
Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International; and Bernard Haufiku,
former Minister of health and social services of Namibia.
A report of the PCB's session's proceedings, along with the short list of
candidates, is to be submitted to the heads of the 11 joint co-sponsoring
agencies of UNAIDS, which include UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, and the World Bank.
Health diplomats said up to three names might be put forward to the UN
Secretary-General António Guterres or even only one if a strong consensus
emerges. Four of the heads of the 11 co-sponsoring agencies will interview
the candidates and, after sharing the results with the other committee
members, will put forward their recommendations to the UN head in July,
diplomatic sources familiar with the process told *The Lancet*.
Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, will chair the cosponsoring
organisations group, UNAIDS officials and UN diplomats said.
The process is difficult to read, say some diplomats, as neither the
European Union nor the African Union countries are explicitly backing one
candidate. By not rallying behind one candidate, African countries stand a
bigger chance of securing the top post, an African diplomat said. Diplomats
from both high-income and low and middle-income nations told *The Lancet* the
mood is to go for someone from “the Global South”.
Behind the scenes, lobbying is expected to intensify, including from the
global AIDS community, donor countries, and countries with a high
prevalence of people living with HIV, senior UN officials and ambassadors
told *The Lancet*.
Some delegates and AIDS advocates would like to see a candidate with strong
AIDS scientific credentials—such as Abdool Karim, Aliyu, and Beyrer—at the
helm of UNAIDS. Others believe that, given the recent turmoil in the
agency, the head of UNAIDS will need strong leadership credentials, a
thorough understanding of gender issues and experience of advocacy and
The next head of UNAIDS will also need to “define the role of UNAIDS
clearly and how to contribute to the fight of HIV”, an African medical
expert who closely follows UNAIDS said.
“The new Executive Director needs to help the organisation find a new role.
This will be a real challenge as the whole developing world and the UN has
changed since the creation of the agency”, a former senior UNAIDS official
told *The Lancet*.
Several sources told *The Lancet* that Byanyima was shaping up as the
candidate to beat. Similarly, an African medical doctor and expert on
HIV/AIDS policy issues, speaking on condition of anonymity, told *The
Lancet*, “certainly a strong candidate who is a woman from the Global South
would be, for many member states, a priority, although in the end, they
will look for political qualities as well”.
At present, both the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director posts are held by
officials from high-income countries. Gunilla Carlsson, a Swedish national,
has been both a deputy in charge of management and governance and, since
May, the acting UNAIDS Executive Director. The other deputy post, head of
UNAIDS Programme, has been held by Shannon Hader, a US national, since
March 2019. This might come as a handicap to US candidate Beyrer's bid.
Sources said other factors will also come into play in the coming days
including horse trading for future posts coming up for Geneva-based
agencies such as the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2020 and
the race to elect a new head of the World Trade Organization in 2021.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list