Up Close and Personal with WHO Director-General Candidates – Women Deliver

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Up Close and Personal with WHO Director-General Candidates

One of the most important organizations in global development, the World Health Organization (WHO), will soon have a new leader. The current Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, will complete her second and final term in June 2017, and her replacement will be chosen from a pool of six talented candidates — four men and two women.

The Director-General is WHO’s chief technical and administrative officer, who represents and oversees WHO’s international health work. The appointment is of great importance to our community of global health and rights advocates, and even more so to girls and women around the globe. To get more clarity on their plans and intentions, Women Deliver asked each of the candidates a series of questions. Their responses are below.

Although this election is not up for popular vote, the people always have a voice. We encourage you to consider the below responses and use your networks to champion the candidates you most believe in. All six of the nominees are strong believers in the transformative power of girls and women, and we are hopeful that whoever is appointed will continue to push for increased investments in their health, rights, and wellbeing. 

Follow along on Twitter and Facebook throughout the week, as we highlight some of the candidates' best responses. We want to hear what you have to say!

What are the most important connections between gender equality and a healthy world, and how would you address them in your work as DG?

150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
I believe that gender equality brings sustainable development – that investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights are investments in a healthy and more prosperous future. Healthy, empowered girls and women have the potential to build stronger communities, economies and nations and ultimately transform entire societies. As Director-General, I will encourage bolder and more sustainable investments and partnerships to advance girls’ and women’s health and rights.

I will also enhance WHO’s capacity to disaggregate data by gender and collect better data on the intersection between gender and health.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

These efforts will help policymakers develop programs and policies that enhance equity and ensure that women, girls and young people can access health services that meet their needs.



150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
The values which underpin the work of WHO include a commitment to equity in relation to (a) access to health care and (b) health outcomes.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a clear commitment, in goal 10, to equality. 

Dr. David Nabarro

There is also an explicit focus on leaving no-one-behind. WHO as an organization is in the process of assessing ways in which it can best contribute to the realization of the SDGs. There is always scope for the use of health and nutrition indicators as an aid to examining the extent and nature of inequalities within societies. I sense that many of the specialized international agencies are in the process of exploring how they can better contribute to the totality of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is not straightforward and will require several iterations at different levels within the organizations. The same sense of an evolving understanding of what the 2030 Agenda means in practice is reported from national and local governments, businesses and civil society groups.

150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
Gender equality is one of the wellsprings of public health. It means putting women and girls on an equal footing with men and boys in their access to general health care, and ensures that women-specific health issues, such as maternal and reproductive health and rights are prioritized. When there is gender-based discrimination the health of women and girls suffers from the effects of a toxic combination of lack of access to health care and the absence of social and economic opportunities. These disadvantages are passed down through generations.

Where there is gender equality, the health of women and girls invariably improves as they take control of their own health and life choices.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo

Moreover, the benefits are passed on to their children and future generations. Equality and non-discrimination are fundamental human rights. As Director-General of WHO, I would build gender equality in health by enhancing the organization’s commitment to the human rights based approach to health. I have demonstrated this commitment by my recent work with colleagues at WHO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in establishing up the High-level Working Group on Health and Human Rights.


150-saniaDr. Sania Nishtar:
Addressing gender disparities is crucial to enhancing both population health and global development and to achieving physical and mental health for all people. Globally, adolescent girls and women remain at increased risk, with poor access to family planning and care during childbirth, higher incidence of sexually transmitted infections, and vulnerability to sexual violence.

Gender equity enhances productivity. As Director General, I will promote gender equity both internally and externally.

Dr. Sania Nishtar

This means complementing our strong commitment in our programs with an approach that promotes structural and institutional mechanisms and protections for women and girls in Member States.

150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted in 1995 by 189 UN Member States, defined health as complete well-being, not just the absence of illness or infirmity. It stipulated that women must enjoy the highest standards of health throughout their lives, increased resources for research and follow-up on women’s health concerns, and confirmed women’s right to sexual and reproductive health and choices about their sexuality. Among other actions, governments committed to delivering affordable, quality care, and boosting investments in services essential to women.

Given how many health threats women still face, and the failure to uphold their inherent rights, these actions are now more urgent than ever—and long overdue.

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

We have set out our goal in the SDGs to Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being; this requires the realization of gender equality and the protection and promotion of women’s rights in order to transform the lives of women and girls around the world.


150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:
The right to the highest attainable standard of health, freedom and entitlement must be given to everyone without any gender-based discrimination. Inequalities have to be tackled also from a gender aspect. Health coverage can only be universal if women’s and girls’ special needs are fully taken into account.

Health for all means all, and that “all” can only be achieved if we are able to recognise diverse needs and capable to develop systems for special attention.

Dr. Miklós Szócska

How will you ensure that girls' and women's health, rights and wellbeing is mainstreamed across WHO's work?

Dr. Sania Nishtar:150-sania
At the global scale, we must align with other United Nations institutions to unequivocally promote the fundamental right of every individual to health equity, without fear of discrimination or fear of violence. This necessarily calls for the formulation and endorsement of strategies to improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and education, and services, ranging from maternal health services and emergency obstetric care. This includes the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and other reproductive cancers, and the right to consensual marriage and safety from harmful traditions and violence.

While the member states bear the responsibility to recognize and uphold these rights, WHO clearly has supportive and advisory role to play

Dr. Sania Nishtar

in order to in identify enabling factors and barriers to promoting the health of women and girls and promoting evidence based solutions to address them.


150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
Women, girls and young people must be at the center of WHO’s work and mandate – because when they thrive, everybody does. As Director-General, I will re-orient WHO’s approach to focus on women, children and adolescents, particularly those living in humanitarian, fragile and hard-to-reach settings.

I will also strengthen WHO’s capacity to monitor results, resources and rights, in line with the goals of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and hold governments accountable for their commitments.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

I will advocate for increased investments, including a Grand Challenges initiative to address key gaps by developing innovations that empower women and girls. And I will continue and intensify WHO’s work with other UN agencies and global stakeholders and initiatives, including the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Family Planning 2020 and Women Deliver.

150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
As an International Geneva Gender Champion, WHO’s Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has already signed the Geneva Parity Pledge, in addition to taking on the following two measurable and accountable commitments to further the principles of this commitment. By September 2016, the foundation module of the WHO gender, equity and human rights e-learning series on mainstreaming competencies will be completed by 80% of new staff at headquarters, and 90% of global staff of the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team will have completed the whole series of seven modules. By September 2017, the number of WHO female staff in the professional and higher categories is to be increased by 3% from 42% in 2015 to 45% in 2017, with a focus on increasing the number of women at the P5 level and above.

I will abide by the Gender Parity Pledge and these additional commitments and will aim to develop others for subsequent years in line with the Gender Parity Pledge.

Dr. David Nabarro


150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
I believe that the mainstreaming process begins with the active involvement of women themselves in all aspects of WHO’s work, including programme delivery on the ground. As Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, I have observed at close range what happens when women are not involved in designing health services, and the systems through which those services are provided. All too often we default to the model of women as passive recipients of health services that are usually designed by men.

The mainstreaming of women’s health, rights and wellbeing across WHO’s work requires a major change in this attitude.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo

We need to actively and vigorously encourage individual women and women’s groups to share their knowledge and experience and to participate with us in the design and delivery of our programmes. Women and women’s groups must be encouraged to participate in the processes of developing guidelines and normative tools. Women and women’s groups must be represented in WHO’s technical commissions and WHO’s policy development processes. We need to ensure the involvement of women in decision making in humanitarian settings, including the protection of refugees and internally displaced peoples’ health. We must not assume we know what is best for them – we must hear their voices and act on what they say. We need to inject this mindset into all of WHO’s work.

150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:
Gender mainstreaming should be an integral part of all strategies and programmes and it could be enhanced among others by guidance on its methods and ways across the three levels of the organisation (global, regional and country).

Fulfilling the right to health requires health systems to become fully responsive to women and girls, offering higher quality, more comprehensive and readily accessible services.

Dr. Miklós Szócska

Societies at large must end practices that critically endanger women’s health and well-being. Universal health coverage is the target that represents the backbone for all other targets. No other target can be realised without striving for universal health coverage. It improves coherence, decreases fragmentation, and contributes to the development of sound health systems that are sustainable. Everyone should have access to health care and each community should receive the necessary health services, while being protected against financial burdens. Universal health coverage should comprise health promotion and disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. Without access to health care no other interventions can be successful. When working for achieving Universal Health Coverage special attention should be paid to the specific needs of women and children. I also understand the limitations that exist as humanity lives among immensely diverse, sometimes divided cultural circumstances. Among various tactics addressing the need for health equity, my approach would be to outsmart the limitations of sometimes exclusive activism with inclusive forms of persuasion.


150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
In 2007, the 60th World Health Assembly (WHA) passed resolution WHA60.25 on integrating gender analysis and actions into the work of WHO. While progress on implementation of this resolution and the WHO Strategy for Integrating Gender Analysis and Actions into the Work of the WHO is done every two years through a progress report to the World Health Assembly, it would be important to undertake a review of the status of implementation of the four strategic directions outlined in the resolution and gender strategy for WHO. Priorities will also include a focus on:

1) Leadership in order to ensure gender parity in female staff at senior levels; and 2) Staff accountability for addressing gender equality in all areas of WHO work.

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

What place should sexual and reproductive health and rights have on the global health and sustainable development agendas - and in 'your' WHO?

150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to both the global health and sustainable development agendas.

In ‘my’ WHO, these [SRHR] concerns would play a central role in the advancement of global health

Dr. Flavia Bustreo

in a manner consistent with the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Sustainable development is self-perpetuating, which in health terms means that every health intervention or programme should not only deliver benefits today, but also into the future. Sexual and reproductive health contributes enormously to this process because it is fundamental to the ability of people – and particularly women – to maximize their own health benefits and their personal potential, to age healthily, and to pass these benefits on to future generations. Good health contributes to social and economic development. Equal improvements in other sectors contributes to health. This virtuous cycle can transform the prospects of whole populations for healthier lives. Upholding and reinforcing the right to sexual and reproductive health enables this process. For this reason, this priority will inform my tenure as Director-General.


150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
I would like to see the widespread adoption of an approach to the SDGs that is both feminist and child-centered. Given their focus on aspects of being human that are uniquely borne by women and are shaped during childhood, it seems to me appropriate that the goals are explicitly appreciated through the eyes, minds and hearts of both women and children (in as much as this appreciation may differ from how they are generally viewed by men). As I see it, it is possible for a man to appreciate sustainable development issues from a feminist or child-centered perspective. I believe that such a disaggregated approach will greatly help those responsible for implementation to work for health equity between women and men, girls and boys – both within the organization and without.

My personal position is that women will never be able to contribute fully to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development agenda unless they are able to access comprehensive reproductive health care.

Dr. David Nabarro

150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
Family planning is one of the most game-changing interventions for women, families, communities and countries. In Ethiopia we used community based female health workers to expand family planning services with privacy. This resulted in five-fold contraceptive prevalence rate from 8% in 2000 to 40% in 2014. The increased use of family planning services and birth spacing among women offers increased opportunities to participate in the labor force, which in turn led to economic and political empowerment. We will only be able to realize the ambitious health and development targets set forth by the SDGs if we make sexual and reproductive health and rights a top priority on the global health and sustainable development agendas.

WHO must work alongside governments and regional organizations – in close collaboration with civil society, private sector, other UN agencies, donors and other key stakeholders – to drive the global sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

so that women, men and young people can access the full range of sexual and reproductive health services of their choice.


150-saniaDr. Sania Nishtar:
Sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) are central to the work of WHO and to the post-2015 global development agenda. In addition to full alignment with the Every Women Every Child movement and the Secretary General's Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent Health, as Director-General of the WHO, I would prioritize adherence to and accelerate development of global strategy documents and guidelines addressing SRHR, including the Global Health Sector Strategy on Sexually Transmitted Infections 2016-2021, the Global Plan of Action on Violence Against Women and Girls, and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescent’s Health 2016-2030. In addition to indicators on family planning and disease prevalence, metrics must focus on equity and include broader social issues such as protection from harmful practices. We must collaborate with institutions who serve to provide rigorous high-quality research and promote evidence-based strategies for improving SRHR outcomes on a global scale.

While strategies will need to be tailored to different country contexts based on various social and legal realities, 'my' WHO will advocate and strategize universal access to SRHR,

Dr. Sania Nishtar

promote youth access, and advocate for SRHR to be included as a goal in other development sectors, including education, economic benefits, gender equality and the environment.


150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
The sexual and reproductive health paradigm emphasizes the importance of seeking to understand women’s individual experiences and constraints and the social factors that influence sexual and reproductive health across the life course.

Reproductive rights are recognized as valuable ends in themselves, and essential to the enjoyment of other fundamental rights.

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

The importance of reproductive rights are enshrined in a wide range of normative frameworks, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Programme of Action of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These normative frameworks – CEDAW, ICPD, Beijing and the SDGs - converge in affirming that the empowerment of women, gender equality, the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth, including adolescent girls and young women, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and the well being of women and men, along with their access to equal rights and opportunities, must continue to be placed at the heart of sustainable development.


150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:
The highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every person. Gender-based discrimination, however, undercuts this right. It can render women more susceptible to sickness and less likely to obtain care, for reasons ranging from affordability to social conventions keeping them at home.

Fulfilling the right to health requires health systems to become fully responsive to women and girls, offering higher quality, more comprehensive and readily accessible services.

Dr. Miklós Szócska

Societies at large must end practices that critically endanger women’s health and well-being. In the course of our work for the health of people globally, we are faced with cultural diversity and our work should be guided by principles acknowledging various ways of protecting the life and health of humans in various cultural environments. I have to note one very specific characteristic of the Hungarian language, my mother tongue. We do not have gender in our language, and the profound meaning of it is that a human being is a human being.

Recognizing that adolescents and young people are often the most marginalized, and their health
needs often ignored, how will you work to ensure that their sexual and reproductive health needs and
opportunities are better met?

150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:
[Answered in previous response]


150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
The wellbeing of women, children and adolescents is one of my leadership priorities. Around the world, far too many young people lack access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need to survive, thrive and achieve their full potential. Addressing the unique needs of adolescents will require a multi-sectoral approach. Girls’ education is a strategic solution to many of the challenges that young women face – health, economic, and political. The longer that girls are enrolled in formal education, the more informed and empowered they become in managing their personal health and relationships, including sexual and reproductive health. UNESCO Education For All estimates that if all mothers completed primary education, we would save the lives of nearly 100,000 mothers and if all mothers completed secondary education, we would save the lives of 3 million children under age 5.

Providing comprehensive sexual education services in schools and preventing school drop outs particularly due to health issues such as menstrual hygiene should be part of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health agenda for adolescents.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Young girls are becoming brides and mothers too soon, endangering both their health and the fundamental rights. I will champion the implementation and monitoring of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, as well as the development of stronger and better-resourced national adolescent health and well-being programs, including in schools.

150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
The 68th World Health Assembly requested the WHO to develop a framework to accelerate action for adolescent health. The framework and accompanying guidance will provide the evidence and technical support needed to ramp up efforts to respond to the needs of this group. In order to unlock the potential of a “demographic dividend” for increased economic growth, adolescents and young people, particularly young women must be healthy and productive. 

An intentional focus on adolescent girls and their rights is nothing short of vital to achieving sustainable development. 

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

There is a need for focus on a life cycle approach that recognizes the unique health needs of girls and women at different ages and the rights of all women at all ages to the highest attainable level of health. This includes addressing the human rights aspects that are crucial to establishing women’s bodily autonomy and integrity. The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in a country's mortality and fertility and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population.


150-saniaDr. Sania Nishtar:
Adolescence is a time during which individuals, particularly girls, are uniquely vulnerable to sexual and reproductive health issues. Adolescent girls account for one-fifth of new HIV infections globally and are at heightened risk of sexual and marital coercion, unwanted pregnancy and unsafe birth. Young men and women both face barriers to receiving comprehensive sexuality education, information, privacy, and prevention and care for sexual and reproductive health. This represents a gap in SRHR that must be addressed in order to achieve more equitable health outcomes, but also crucially to promote empowerment of young women around the world.

At the global scale, the next Director General has an obligation to advocate for access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and resources for young people and young women in particular.

Dr. Sania Nishtar

While Member States have ultimate authority with regard to the definition of these services as legal rights, WHO can support and empower young people to address social and legal restraints facing them in different settings. WHO should promote an environment in which young people can participate in the discussion including through youth-led needs assessments and reporting on barriers. It is important that adolescent voices, regarding health needs, vulnerabilities, and access be incorporated the dialogue and strategy-development process to address these disparities.


150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
I was privileged to play a leading role in the collaborative effort to develop the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) launched by the UN Secretary-General and world leaders as a frontline implementation platform for the SDGs. This important document seeks to correct the relative neglect of adolescent health in previous health strategies by giving them “star billing” alongside women and children. It proposes increased provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services, and the implementation of measures to ensure that adolescents can access them without facing discrimination or other obstacles. Other proposals include comprehensive sexuality education and the prevention of, and response to, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation. As Director-General, these would be the focus of my agenda for meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents.

WHO can clearly play a major role in developing and disseminating “youth-friendly” health information, in encouraging education programmes for adolescents, and in developing new standards and protocols to support the efforts of Member States.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo


150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
WHO’s work on sexual and reproductive health should always be based on evidence: where there is evidence that lack of education or access to care is associated with people being at risk of illness or death, and that appropriate education or care strategies will reduce the risk, WHO should disseminate the information.

So if young people’s access to comprehensive sexuality education can be shown to be associated with their enjoying better physical and mental health, WHO should be explicit about these linkages.

Dr. David Nabarro

Not all Member States can be expected to act on such information in the same way: it is inevitable that different communities and governments will make their own decisions on how they use the information in national programmes.


What role you do feel advocacy and accountability plays in global health and achieving health for all? And how do you intend to work with civil society?

150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
Multiple stakeholders are involved in global health. Civil society networks, individual NGOs, from the international down to the community level, professional associations, the media, think tanks, national and transnational corporations, the individuals and informal communities that have found a new voice and influence thanks to ICT and social media – all of these actors influence decision making. The adoption of FENSA (Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors) this year marked a tremendous step forward for WHO. WHO needs to engage with multiple stakeholders in global health, but it must do so in a manner that will not undermine the integrity of its reputation, evidence and standards. I will safeguard the primacy of Member States in making policy decisions. Any institution with a core function that focuses on the setting and application of standards requires robust safeguards against influences from others. One of WHO’s core functions relates to the setting and application of standards for health. I will protect this work from inappropriate influences. FENSA provides an important tool in this regard. I welcome the clarity that FENSA will bring to the role of NGOs, as civil society is a critical partner for WHO.

I will seek to ensure that FENSA is implemented in a manner that gives those who are less powerful the space to participate fully.

Dr. David Nabarro

I am pleased that WHA has requested that the Director-General conduct an initial evaluation in 2019 on the implementation of FENSA. In my view, that review will provide an important opportunity to assess whether FENSA is operating as it should or whether any further adjustments are needed.


150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
Advocacy plays a major role in achieving health for all because it increases awareness of health issues among the people and institutions that possess the power and resources to effect change. When done well, strong advocacy can lead to rapid and targeted action. I have a track record of using my advocacy skills and networks to achieve increased political and financial commitments. This was proven by my work with the ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement and the publication of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (2010-2015), which have already led to increased policy attention and more than US$ 40 million being devoted to women and children’s health. Accountability is the flipside of advocacy. You have told us what needs to be done, now show us what you have achieved and how you did it. This process of disclosure is incredibly important to the advancement of health goals because it demonstrates whether progress is on track, and shows clearly where extra efforts should be focused. I spearheaded the creation of the Commission on Information and Accountability and the Independent Expert Review Group. Through my work with PMNCH,

I have long advocated for the greater participation of civil society in advocacy and accountability, through processes such as ‘citizen hearings for women's and children's health and greater youth engagement in decision-making for health.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo

As Director-General, I would extend these approaches to the whole of WHO and explore the possibility of civil-society participation in all areas of our work.

150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
Through the SDGs and other global compacts, global and national leaders have made ambitious commitments aimed at ensuring health for all and driving sustainable development. It is critical to hold these leaders to account for delivering on the promises they’ve made – and

advocacy organizations, like Women Deliver, play an invaluable role in putting the pressure on and develop mechanisms for ensuring that action follows rhetoric.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

I envision WHO mobilizing action around a shared vision and goals with all stakeholders, including member states and civil society, to lead from the center and the front to ensure health for all through both technical and political leadership.


150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
Advocacy is critical in ensuring gender equality perspectives are integrated in all efforts related to health – by allocating adequate resources, developing key accountability mechanisms, and promoting women’s leadership in the health response.

The Every Woman Every Child movement and the UN SG’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescent Health have brought about momentous change;

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

particularly in setting forth robust accountability and financing frameworks which have stimulated evidence-based policy development, prioritization and resource mobilization. Accountability is critical as a tool to measure implementation. Continued push for gender equality linked health targets, indicators and sex and age-disaggregated data are needed. Generally, through the collection, analysis and dissemination of sex and age disaggregated data, national programs will be able to understand the varying and differing needs of women (including young women) for education and services, well as monitor the progress of current operational strategies. In terms of civil society,

key platforms such as the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health are important to nurture and invest in

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

as it brings together in an alliance more than 700 organizations from the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health communities. Engaging civil society partners and facilitating a role for them in driving the change needed in countries is critical.

150-saniaDr. Sania Nishtar:
The first pledge in my vision centers on achieving meaningful transparency and accountability. I regard both as being vital for reclaiming WHO’s leadership role in global health and achieving the vision for WHO centered on health for all. To signal my commitment from the outset, I aim to set a standard of transparency by making public, financial statements of my campaign, including all sources of funding. This is essential to demonstrate that there will be no hidden influence of campaign financing during my term in office. I know first-hand the value civil society can bring to promoting health goals. However civil society is not monolithic and

[civil society] can play various roles—as service providers, watchdogs, advocates for change, agents to compel independent accountability; and as expert groups, communities and voices, civil society has a lot to offer.

Dr. Sania Nishtar

To harness their immense potential, astute understanding of how they operate is critical. This becomes more important in view of the recent adoption of FENSA—the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors by WHO’s Member States (civil society is one category of non-state actors). Under my leadership, WHO will promote strategic engagement with NSAs, efficiently and effectively, while enforcing all procedures of FENSA to build safeguards against undue influences, which can undermine public confidence and create a reputation risk.


150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:
We should pay special attention to innovative models of cooperation with civil society actors, and in view of the complex and ever changing character of health challenges, not only should our models be innovative, but new players should also be involved. We should still do much more for raising awareness, improving health literacy, and promoting health conscious behaviour. Governance reform processes show the proper direction, however, still much to be done to ensure transparency and involvement of various levels, the proper involvement of all players in the drafting and implementation processes, as well as further improvements in accountability.

WHO needs to follow regular dialogue with civil society as an important partner.

Dr. Miklós Szócska

I would count on your input and comments to support my work as Director-General. Policies of transparency have to be implemented in order to guarantee accountability before the public.

What would be your key priorities as Director-General of WHO?

150-philippeProf. Philippe Douste-Blazy:
As Director-General, I would specifically promote WHO leadership and action in the following five priority areas:

Ensuring that WHO responds effectively to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

  1. Secure reliable long-term funding for Health Emergencies Program
  2. Provide leadership and oversight, engage partners
  3. Prioritize country support

Bolstering health systems to implement universal health coverage

  1. Recommit to the values and principles enshrined in the Alma Ata Declaration
  2. Collaborate for better financing and investments in building responsive and resilient health systems
  3. Strongly position public health within the universal health care agenda
  4. Intensify global efforts –in association with UN Women- to reduce violence against women and children

Increasing the availability, affordability and access to essential medicines

  1. Promote access to new products
  2. Ensure adequate financing
  3. Engage manufacturers
  4. Strengthen governance

Tackling the growing challenge of antimicrobial resistance

  1. Ensure more effective management of demand for and use of antimicrobial agents
  2. Strengthen surveillance of drug resistance and antimicrobial consumption in humans and animals
  3. Increase the supply of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines

Tackling the unprecedented growth of non-communicable diseases, especially ensuring that socio-economic issues, as well as cultural aspects and gender-related factors are better taken into account in the development of health projects.


150-flaviaDr. Flavia Bustreo:
I can summarize my vision for WHO’s work in five words – Equity, Rights, Responsiveness, Evidence and Partnership. Five words, but charged with so much meaning and power for global health. They would inform my key priorities as Director-General, which would be:

  1. To drive progress towards achieving the health SDG as a cross-cutting driver of sustainable development, enhancing policies in other sectors that are crucial determinants of health and to which health contributes; education, energy, water, sanitation and hygiene and infrastructure development are examples of such sectors.
  2. To expand universal health coverage for proven, evidence-based health interventions, building on the progress in HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and MDGs 4 and 5, with tools for assessing and treating newer global health priorities such as cancers and noncommunicable diseases.
  3. To drive the reform of WHO in humanitarian and health emergencies, outbreaks, and strengthen global health security, in order to address the devastating Ebola outbreak, Zika, yellow fever and the new threats of antimicrobial resistance.
  4. To address the impact of climate change on the health of citizens, mediated through the changing patterns of diseases vectors, disruption in access to food, safe water and clean air. And make WHO, and the health sector as whole, carbon neutral.
  5. To prioritize the health of women, children and young people everywhere – especially to reduce the impact of ill-health due to inequity, migration and crises – improving their nutrition and well-being across the life course and addressing the unfinished agenda related to women, children and adolescents health.
  6. To maximize efforts to achieve equity using a human-rights-based approach in health and sustainable development.

These priorities will be undertaken in an environment of enhanced transparency, and accountability, WHO must be able to demonstrate measurable results for its Member States.


150-saniaDr. Sania Nishtar:
In terms of priorities for global public health, my vision outlines four programmatic areas—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. I regard infectious outbreaks, antibiotic resistance and the silent pandemic of non-communicable diseases, as the biggest immediate threats to the collective health of people, worldwide. These, together with the longer-term threat of climate change, threaten to wipe out the development gains of the last century. In addition to the challenge of collective health security, it is also critical to address other more ‘individual-centric’ threats to health, such as widening health inequities, poor coverage, lack of financial risk protection and poor quality of care. This creates a strong imperative for countries to adopt Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a policy goal, given its cross-cutting potential to address both sets of challenges.

My New Vision for WHO is centered on 10 Pledges for action, six of which are focused on reclaiming WHO’s primacy. I have therefore pledged to institutionalize accountability and transparency, ensure value for money, and drive a culture based on results and concrete delivery. I pledge to focus WHO on its core and exclusive mandates and to exercising WHO’s leadership through effective coordination, building on comparative advantage and by establishing a partnership-fostering culture.

150-tedrosDr. Tedros Adhanom:
I have been a strong advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout my career. During my tenure as Director-General, I will continue to champion gender equality and promise to place the wellbeing of women, children and adolescents at the center of my agenda. Achieving the ambitious targets of the Sustainable Development Goals requires improving the health, dignity and rights of women, children and adolescents. We need to address the lack of access to maternal health, sexual and reproductive health, family planning and adolescent health services. We need innovation, research and data to develop gender-responsive health policies. We also need effective partnerships with national governments, civil society and the private sector to drive progress. Together, we can put health at the center of the gender equality agenda – and gender equality at the center of the health agenda.

Secondly, I will transform WHO into a more effective, transparent and accountable agency that is independent, science- and innovation-based, responsive and harmonized, with a shared vision across all levels. It will be critical to implement bold reforms, while maintaining organizational stability to deliver impactful results.

Thirdly, I will advance universal health coverage to ensure all people can access the services they need without risk of impoverishment. This includes leveraging domestic resources for health, strengthening primary health care, and expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as preventive services, diagnostics and high-quality medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These efforts should identify and scale up best practices as well as tailoring the actions into the needs and context of countries.

Fourthly, I will promote global health security by strengthening the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies, including antimicrobial resistance.

Finally, I will undertake the essential work of supporting national health authorities to better understand and address the health effects of climate and environmental change.


150-davidDr. David Nabarro:
My vision for WHO is to make critical contributions in relation to four main priorities for global health.

  1. Firstly, alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Health is central to the achievement of the SDGs. Delivering on the SDGs requires inter-sectoral collaboration with a stewardship role for the health sector.  Within WHO there will be a need for constant inter-departmental collaboration;
  2. Secondly, transforming WHO to respond to outbreaks and health emergencies. Here WHO is expected to exercise leadership by providing technical expertise, while empowering others to take action. WHO needs to live up to these expectations.
  3. Third, deepening trust in its engagement with Member States, serving as a trusted partner of all governments (and peoples) while holding itself to the pledges that world leaders themselves made in the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind;
  4. Fourth, advancing implementation of people-centered health policies everywhere with a focus on access to health care for all (especially women, children and adolescents, people with long-term illness, disability and the elderly); maximizing the capabilities of all who contribute to people’s health and provide care. To be sure this is not at all a new topic, but it is crucial to progress faster on implementation.


150-miklosDr. Miklós Szócska:

My key priorities as Diretor-General would be:

  1. Helping people on this planet to be healthier and more watchful of their health,
  2. Promoting universal health coverage to protect both the healthy and those who get sick and fostering health systems which are resilient, equitable and ever improving in quality,
  3. Properly trained, committed, motivated, innovative health labour force to provide health promotion, prevention, cure and care,
  4. a strong WHO as the indisputable, impartial and independent leader in global health.
  5. With promoting the idea of resilient health systems towards member states, comes the responsibility of WHO to be resilient. WHO has all the potential and is full of expertise and good willing staff to accomplish a cultural change. To make this happen I will ensure a team spirit, a culture of open speech and consultation for all staff members, career progression and recruitment based on merit. In this process we have to build on the achievements of the ongoing WHO reforms in alignment with the broader UN reform agenda.

The key components of the transformation strategy include:

  • developing change management capacities,
  • redesigning performance and reporting in a global project portfolio management framework focusing on results, problem solving,
    to prevent bureaucracy to strangle action,
  • development of rapid response teams and task forces to support country efforts to cope with local health-related emergencies, building on mobilising WHO’s resources globally,
  • further development of risk communication capabilities,
  • empower professional and management information systems with big data technologies and enhance transparency
  • stabilising funding of WHO and its priority programmes

What's next? 
In January 2017, WHO’s Executive Board will draw up a shortlist with a maximum of 5 candidates. Executive Board members will then interview these candidates and nominate up to 3 to move forward for consideration by the World Health Assembly. In May 2017, Member States will vote in a new Director-General. The new Director-General will take office on 1 July 2017.

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