The race to Geneva: Who should head WHO?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Whoever wins the Director-Generalship of the World Health Organization (WHO) faces the twin challenge of not only revamping global public health but also promoting patient-centred healthcare. While candidates are promising leadership and bold change, improving the lives of patients from all around the world remains critical.   

Through vote the WHO Executive Board selected 3 candidates who will be presented as nominees for the post of Director-General at the forthcoming World Health Assembly scheduled for 22-31 May 2017. All Member States will vote among the candidates, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Ethiopia), Dr David Nabarro (United Kingdom) and Dr Sania Nishtar (Pakistan). The elected candidate will take office as of 1 July 2017.


So who is who?

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, nominee of the Government of Ethiopia

According to his campaign manifesto, Dr Ghebreyesus guided Ethiopia and numerous global health organizations to achieve game-changing results and increase their impact. As an experienced reformer, he transformed Ethiopia’s health system to expand quality care and access to tens of millions of Ethiopians, and helped key global actors like The Global Fund and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness. As a skilled diplomat, his collaborative, context-specific, and solutions-oriented approach to global health and international relations is respected worldwide.

“Our world has changed. Today, we face unprecedented health threats – from pandemics, to antibiotic-resistant infections, to climate change.  We need a strong and effective World Health Organization to meet these challenges”, Dr Ghebreyesus says.


Dr David Nabarro, nominee of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

“Changing climates, violent conflict, persistent poverty and mass migration – the world is changing and the benefits of globalization remain unequally shared. As a result, people face an ever-growing avalanche of threats to their health. The need for a robust, reliable and responsive World Health Organization has never been more urgent,” reads in part, Dr Nabarro’s Manifesto.

He is pledging to make the WHO the undisputed leader on all health issues and advance people-centred health policies, making sure that WHO constantly strives for excellence and is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the way and speed at which WHO responds to outbreaks and emergencies.

"This is the job I’ve been training for my entire life, motivated by every patient I’ve ever treated and by every community that I have served", Dr Nabarro says.


Dr Sania Nishtar, nominee of the Government of Pakistan

“My programmatic Pledges center on delivering effective operational readiness in outbreaks and emergencies; strengthened action on global public goods; focus on supporting countries to reduce the health risks of climate change; and country-relevant support to achieve the SDGs, with an emphasis on Universal Health Coverage and multisectoral action”,  Dr Nishtar pledges in her manifesto.

“I have the resolve, ability, and experience to provide strong and decisive leadership for the WHO—and the ability to listen carefully to stakeholders and adapt decisions to a rapidly changing global health environment. I will focus on fulfilling the WHO’s mandate and holding it accountable for delivering results”, Dr Nishtar says.


For more info on candidates:

Dr David Nabarro

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Dr Sania Nishtar