Global health centre
31 March 2016

Choosing the world’s highest health diplomat: What is at stake for global health security

As the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing for the election of the next Director-General in 2017, expectations are high. In a world facing increasingly complex global health challenges, and in light of strong calls for reform of the organisation, this election will contribute to shaping WHO’s role in the future. Moreover, the Director-General will for the first time be chosen by the full World Health Assembly – a new procedure that may also have an impact on the process and its outcome.

Member states have until 22 September 2016 to submit proposals, on the basis of which the Executive Board (EB) at its 140th session in January 2017 will shortlist five candidates and interview them. The EB will then nominate three persons and submit their names to the WHA.

Between the public release of names in September 2016 and the next EB, member states will have the opportunity to hear from candidates through a web portal and a candidates’ forum to take place in November 2016. Openness and transparency of this process will be crucial, in order to ensure that a wider group of stakeholders gains an understanding of the candidates’ positions on a broad range of issues.

Following the recommendations of a number of independent panels reviewing the response to the Ebola crisis, the Global Health Programme in cooperation with the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is putting forward fifteen questions for WHO Director-General candidates in relation to the challenges the organisation faces in health emergency and outbreak response. This set of questions draws on the conclusions of the different reports, in order to stimulate thinking on this important area of WHO’s work, and help define the leadership profile of the next DG needed to address these pressing challenges.


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