WHO Head Chan Cites Optimism, Issues Warning, Omits IP In Opening Remarks04/01/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By William New In her opening remarks to staff on her first day in office, new World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said she would not rock the organisation boat, would focus policy on women and Africa, issued a warning on behaviour, and otherwise avoided the contentious issues relating to health and intellectual property rights.Chan demonstrated awareness of the politicised nature of international health issues, and of recent inner turmoil in United Nations agencies including the WHO. But she struck an optimistic, if serious, note and said she plans to capitalise on the situation.“Much is expected of us,” she said in a 4 January speech to WHO staff. “Starting with a good foundation allows us to be bolder in our ambitions and tougher in the way we assess our impact.”“I believe these are optimistic times for health,” she said. “Never before has our work enjoyed such a high profile on the political agenda.” Chan cited unprecedented monies for health needs and an “array of effective tools waiting for the political will and funds to put them to work.”Chan was elected in November after the sudden death of late Director-General Lee Jong-wook last May and assumed the reins of the organisation from interim chief Anders Nordstrom on 1 January (IPW, Public Health, 8 November).In her speech, Chan said the “landscape of public health has become a complex and crowded arena for action,” and said the role of the WHO is as coordinator. “It is our job to set the international health agenda,” she said.She cited key issues such as neglected tropical diseases, which disproportionately affect developing nations but for which drug research lags in part because they are seen as unprofitable markets for pharmaceutical companies. But she avoided any mention of this fact, and in no place made direct mention of developing countries’ lack of access to medicines (though she did state the importance of “universal access according to need”). Instead, she said the world is paying attention to these diseases in “unprecedented” ways.Chan repeatedly stressed global “solidarity” on health issues, and said a key target for 2007 will be strengthening health systems with integrated primary health care. Other issues she highlighted include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, chronic diseases, polio, and avian influenza.A Stern Warning to MiscreantsLooking inward at the organisation in a context of past UN scandals and calls for reform, as well as possibly some recent charges of undue influence at the WHO from industry or the United States, Chan issued a warning and a vow: “I know I am being closely observed. I know I must lead by example. My behaviour as an international civil servant must be beyond reproach. This is an expectation that I extend to all staff.”“First, I will not tolerate harassment or any other form of misconduct. I will deal with it promptly and fairly. Second, I will not tolerate abuse of our relationship with member states. I remind you that it is inappropriate to use the good will of countries to attempt to influence the organisation for personal benefit or for the benefit of any programme. The trust that member states place in us is based on our commitment to impartiality and objectivity.”But Chan assured staff that she would not announce a “big shake-up” on her first day. “Reform, yes. Upheaval, no,” she said.Instead, there will be “some fine-tuning” of the organisational structure and will set up a task force to implement the changes in the coming months. She will announce her deputy in “next few days,” and her senior management team in February. She noted she was given less time to prepare before taking office than is usually given and would pursue a three-phase transition period beginning with listening and consulting during January.Chan said she already has met with most major foundations, partner organisations, non-governmental organisations and others. She also will meet with WHO regional directors and hold a major meeting with senior staff from regions and countries on 20-22 March.“To get policy and strategy right, we need organisation-wide coherence,” she said.[Note: Intellectual Property Watch has reported on possible undue influence at WHO, including here, here, here, here, here, and here.][Click here to read Director-General Chan’s speech]William New may be reached at email@example.com.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Related"WHO Head Chan Cites Optimism, Issues Warning, Omits IP In Opening Remarks" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.