More than 30 African ministers for health threw their support behind Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ candidature Tuesday to head the World Health Organization (WHO) at a dinner reception held in Geneva.
In January, the African Union appointed Dr. Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian minister for foreign affairs, to become the next director general of the WHO.
Addressing the media at the dinner reception, Dr. Mustapha Kaloko, the African Union’s commissioner for Social Affairs, spoke highly of Dr. Tedros, saying his track record qualifies him to lead the World Health Organization.
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“Given the merits of Dr. Tedros, what excuses do we have not to support Dr. Tedros’ candidature?” Dr. Kaloko asked.
Welcoming the support, Dr. Tedros insisted that the time has come for WHO to embrace a new outlook in order to effectively tackle today’s world health challenges. He also noted that Africa hasn’t had a chance to head the UN organization, but emphasized that his interest in the post is purely based on merit.
The incumbent Ethiopian minister for health, Dr. Kesetebirahn Admasu, also endorsed Dr. Tedros saying his track record and leadership capabilities make him the best candidate for the job, “Africa is not presenting only an African candidate, but an able candidate,” Dr. Kesetebirahn told the gathering.
Electing a New Director General of WHO
The process of electing a new director general of the World Health Organization begins with the nomination of candidates by member states after which the World Health Assembly carries out a final round of voting to elect the suitable candidate.
Since the last voting in 2012, the entire election process has been extensively revised, with the establishment of new and more stringent rules to ensure transparency and objectivity in the appointment procedure.
A new Code of Conduct has been put in place, outlining best practices and roles for all member states, candidates, and the WHO secretariat during the election process. The code requires all stakeholders to exercise openness, dignity, equity, and good faith. It also outlines the grounds for special requests, such as financial disclosure and avoidance of conflicts of interest.
Previously, only one nomination was submitted to the World Health Assembly, but with the new developments, WHO’s executive board has the liberty to submit up to three nominations.
Current WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan has held the position since 2006 and will be going out in June next year.
WHO’s director general serves in different capacities, including as international policy overseer, chief technical officer, and chief administrative officer.
If Dr. Ghebreyesus is chosen, he would be the first African to serve in the coveted position.