WHO Members Mixed On Evaluation Of Director General Election Process

The opinions of the World Health Organization member states on the just-completed election process for a WHO director general showed divisions, according to statements at last week’s meeting of the WHO Executive Board.

The election process for the new director general of the World Health Organization was a “model for most elections,” France said during the Board meeting. New Zealand underlined that the duration of the election process was “far too long” and Monaco stressed that the WHO needs to use “voting methods of the twenty-first century.”

WHO Executive Board meeting last week

The 141st session of the WHO Executive Board, which took place on 1 June (finishing one day early), discussed the Report on the evaluation of the election of the director-general of the World Health Organization. The 65th World Health Assembly in 2012 decided that the Executive Board would conduct an evaluation of the revised process and methods for the election of the WHO director general to assess its efficacy.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia was elected on 23 May as the next WHO director general for five years starting on 1 July (IPW, WHO, 23 May 2017).

The election of the new director-general was “unprecedented,” according to Brazil, “very special,” according to Korea, and “historic,” according to Zimbabwe. It was the first time member states were able to choose during the World Health Assembly among several candidates for a new WHO director-general.

Several countries, including the Philippines, Canada, France, Mexico, Thailand and the United Kingdom, took the floor during the Executive Board to praise the transparency of the voting system. France said that the process was held in “a very democratic fashion” that strengthened “the legitimacy and credibility of the new director general.”

Brazil appreciated the “many opportunities for dialogue” with the different candidates.

The transparency of the election process can further be improved, according to Monaco, Vietnam and Korea.

Korea said that all WHO member states have been waiting for an electronic voting system. The Philippines suggested another round of study on an electronic voting system and a consultation by the WHO with other international organisations that have experience in electronic voting.

Other issues raised during the Executive Board for consideration in the future were the costs and duration of the campaigns of the candidates, transparency about the funding of the campaigns, duration of the transition period and term of mandate of the director general.

Evaluation Management Group

The Report on the evaluation of the election of the director-general of the World Health Organization stated that the evaluation management group will be composed of the officers of the 141st session of the Executive Board with support from the WHO Evaluation Office.

Japan raised questions about the independence of the evaluation management group.

The Executive Board chairman, Assad Hafeez from Pakistan, suggested that he would not be part of the evaluation management group to ensure independence, as one of the candidates for the position of director general, Sania Nishtar, is from Pakistan.

The decision was therefore amended. The evaluation management group will be composed of the vice-chairman and rapporteur of the 141st session of the Executive Board, a member of the Executive Board from the Eastern Mediterranean Region and chaired by the first vice-chairman.

The evaluation process will take place during the 142nd session of the Executive Board in January 2018, according to the adopted report. The evaluation process is “very timely,” according to Japan.

Several countries, including Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Vietnam, Zambia and the United Kingdom, explicitly expressed their support for the evaluation process by the evaluation management group.

An online survey will be sent to the member states to obtain their informed opinion. “Every single comment and suggestion” will help to improve further work on the elections, Korea said. Zambia suggested that the feedback of non-state actors in official relations with the WHO would also be taken into account.

The “independent feedback on the election process from the chairman of the 140th session of the Executive Board, the Secretariat and the six candidates nominated by member states” can be requested, according to the report. Specific questionnaires and key informant interviews can be used to obtain the additional feedback, the report said.

Elise De Geyter is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch and a candidate for the LLM Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the National University of Singapore (class of 2017).


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