Choice to Replace Tedros at WHO Should be Transparent

In Global Advocacy, Global Featured by Fiona Ip

The United Nations Member States will move toward nominating candidates for the post of the next World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General in one month. As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO executive election must become more transparent, equitable, merit-based and open to a wide pool of candidates from diverse backgrounds, according to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest provider of HIV/AIDS care globally.

The current WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is in the running for the next five-year appointment, but who else is vying for the spot remains hidden from public view, just as much of the selection process has been for years. After the mid-September deadline, the WHO Executive Board will consider all candidates submitted by the Member States and come up with a short list of five names by January 2022. Eventually the Board will whittle down the list to three candidates, before the final decision is voted on by the Member States at the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022.

“With Dr. Tedros’ manifest failure in handling the pandemic, the question is who will replace him? That search must be transparent. We cannot let a decision of this magnitude be made in the dark or be subjected to political maneuvering behind closed doors,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “The overriding concern of the Member States and the Executive Board should be to cast the net as wide as possible and seek out leaders from different backgrounds who have the resolve and skills to steer the WHO through this difficult time and restore its reputation as a leading scientific and technical health agency. Public hearings with candidates might be one way to bring more openness to the elections – as constituents of the Member States we have the right to know the process is being carried out fairly and in the interest of global public health.”

In June, AHF published a statement outlining six reasons why Dr. Tedros should not be re-appointed for a second term as Director-General of the WHO. Among the chief concerns about Dr. Tedros’ performance during the pandemic are questions about delays on the part of the WHO in declaring COVID-19 a public health emergency, followed by another delay in declaring it a pandemic, a lack of transparency around the origins of COVID-19, and a general slowness in mounting a robust, clearly articulated response to the pandemic. With the upcoming election of a new Director-General, Member States have an opportunity to address the leadership gap at the WHO by making the search transparent and open to diverse candidates. 

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