New Rules Eyed For Election Of WHO Director General18/01/2011 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 2 CommentsShare 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 subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate.With the World Health Organization director general’s term of office ending next year, WHO members today set up a drafting group to try to reconcile divergent views on the process leading to the election.Some countries are in favour of geographical rotation – citing over 60 years of no representation from their regions, while some other countries claimed rotation could override more important selection criteria such as expertise and experience, and could endanger the organisation’s future. Margaret Chan, director general (DG) since January 2007, was appointed by a special World Health Assembly in November 2006 following the untimely death of Lee Jong-wook earlier that year. Chan’s current term of office expires on 30 June 2012.The issue was discussed today at the WHO Executive Board session which runs from 17-25 January.A draft resolution [pdf] on the rules of procedure for the appointment of the WHO director general was proposed today by Burundi on behalf of the member states of the African region, asking for the Executive Board to approve the principle of geographical rotation of the post of DG among the six regions of the WHO. The six regions are Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific.In this draft resolution, the country stressed the “imperative need for further strengthening of the guarantees of transparency and equity among the six geographical regions of the WHO in the process of nomination and appointment of the director general of the organisation.” The draft resolution also referred to “the practice observed in terms of geographical rotation for similar functions within the specialised agencies of the United Nations system.”The proposed document stirred a debate that some countries said has been on the table since 2006.The current criteria for the selection of a candidate was set in 1996, at the 97th session of the Board, and appears in document EB128/27 [pdf] on the election of the director general, submitted to members this week.Japan asked that two requirements be added to the present list of criteria. The first one would be equal footing, after which as long as any candidate meet the required criteria, he or she should be given equal chance, regardless of the level of resources of the country he or she comes from. The second requirement would be a transparent process of the election. The government of Japan considers the EB should discuss the code of conduct of the election before discussing the geographical rotation of the director general.The principle of rotation could put the WHO in a “very difficult situation,” the Japanese delegate said, if the organisation has to choose between two principles, for example, expertise and geographical rotation. “Electing the most qualified candidate on equal footing would benefit the international community,” he said.Burundi said the question of procedure in the election of the director general has been discussed since 2006. If the choice of a candidate is based on merit, one could think merit is the product of selected regions, the delegate said.A number of countries requested the floor to say they were in favour of a working group to try to find consensus to an issue which is clearly dividing countries along a North-South line.The European Union said that although they support the need for a fair, transparent and democratic process, they do not believe institutionalising geographical rotation for the director general position would “best help the organisation achieve” its goals and would create an unhelpful precedent in the United Nations.The United States said they were “deeply sympathetic to the request,” and full equity and access should be granted to candidates from all regions. Russia said the proposal to change criteria was “not entirely constructive,” and the proposal would “actually be a step backwards,” and could lead to a weakening of the organisation.Technical Expertise Not a Prerogative?Brazil said technical knowledge and competence were essential qualities for candidates, but there are “capable professionals in most regions of the world.” India said in the broad interest of the WHO, all opinions should be taken into account. A Brazilian delegate later told Intellectual Property Watch that it supports the idea about having candidates from different regions of the world but did not favour the obligatory rotation.Egypt, a non-Board member this year, said the case for geographic rotation had been well made as three regions (South East Asia, Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean) had not succeeded in having a candidate at the head of the organisation since 1947.Such regional unbalance should not be repeated in the future, he said. Considering that there is no competence in 3 continents is “insulting” he said. Egypt has no objection to a working group but it should not be an end in itself but a mean to reach a fair solution.The meeting chair, Mihali Kökény of Hungary, agreed to set up a drafting group, with A.J. Mohamed of Oman as the chair of the group. The first meeting of the group was scheduled to meet late today and the discussion on the matter has been suspended until the working group is ready to report.Global Strategy on R&D FinancingFollowing what Brazil deemed was an unresolved issue from yesterday, the country asked that the implementation by the secretariat of the WHO global strategy and plan of action on innovation, intellectual property and public health be explained to the Board members. The delegate proposed that a short presentation be put together this week by the secretariat to present the implementation of the global strategy. The delegate also recalled the disagreement on an industry member listed as a candidate to sit on an expert working group on research and development. The issue should be discussed again tomorrow morning.Also tomorrow, the contentious issue of “substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products” may come up.And tomorrow the Board is expected to begin discussing the future of the financing of the WHO.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)RelatedCatherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."New Rules Eyed For Election Of WHO Director General" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.