Croakey readers with an interest and stake in global health may be interested to watch this two hour moderated discussion with the candidates for Director-General of the World Health Organisation.
The event, streamed live on Monday from Geneva, was organised by the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, in cooperation with the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House, The Rockefeller Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.
Many Croakey readers will know of the Global Health Centre’s work through the tweeting of its director Ilona Kickbusch, who is well worth following at @IlonaKickbusch.
As the Centre pointed out in this post, this WHO election is different, both procedurally and politically. For the first time in history, the Director-General (DG) will be elected through a direct, but secret vote by the 194 member states at the World Health Assembly in May 2017.
Examining the election process, this article in The Washington Post argued last year that the WHO’s influence has been declining for some time, and had not been helped by the shortcomings of its Ebola response. It said:
New actors and sources of finance such as the Gates Foundation have created a more diffuse global health landscape. Spending on global health increased dramatically since 2000, but much of the funds were channeled through new entities such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — not the WHO.
The candidates and some of the issues
In this transparent new process, in January the WHO Executive Board shortlisted three candidates as nominees to succeed Dr Margaret Chan who has steered the organisation since 2006.
- Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Ethiopia) (right)
- Dr David Nabarro (UK) (left)
- Dr Sania Nishtar (Pakistan) (centre)
The World Health Assembly will vote on the candidates in May 2017, with the new Director-General to take office on 1 July 2017.
Read more about the candidates and process here.
Britain’s The Lancet is following the elections closely: read its cover here. This piece examines the issues raised during the shortlisting and since and quotes health advocacy groups, such as Oxfam GB and Médecins Sans Frontières. Rohit Malpani, director for policy and analysis for the MSF Access Campaign said the next Director-General needs to focus on four key areas: response to emergencies, putting public health first, innovation and access to medicines, and antimicrobial resistance.
“They will need to implement measures to protect WHO from being influenced by commercial interests or the particular interests of donors, and must assert the primacy of public health above global health security.”
The Global Health Centre said the election comes in challenging times for global health. Ahead of the panel discussion, it posed the following questions:
What is the leadership role of the WHO in this highly politicized setting? What difference can a new Director General make? What form will WHO’s health diplomacy take as heads of state and other sectors engage in the global health agenda? How can WHO play to its strengths and invest in its normative and convening capacities? How can it act on behalf of the most disadvantaged? Are countries and civil society organisations asking the impossible of a cash-strapped intergovernmental organisation?
The civil society group, Geneva Global Health Hub, also issued a call to action, saying the WHO is “at a crossroads” with its credibility, legitimacy and capacity to play at directing role in matters of international health at stake.
See also this post on gender in the election and the future of global health from The Lancet, which also provided these links to a press briefing in Geneva in January from the final three candidates:
You can follow Twitter conversations around the discussion on #WHODG (with a sample below) and see the sorts of questions that people interested in the event wanted to pose at #WHODGquestion (though, as Kickbusch observed, it got overwhelmed by anti-vaxxers (and e-cigarette/vaping interests).
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