Ethiopian Becomes First African Head Of World Health Organization 23/05/2017 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)In a novel election process for the first time involving the full organisation membership, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia this evening was elected as the next director general of the World Health Organization, becoming the first official from Africa to be chosen to head the United Nations health agency. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accepts the mantle of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (who goes by “Tedros”) takes over on 1 July for the next 5 years from Margaret Chan of China, who served two terms. In three rounds of closed-door voting, Tedros won out over David Nabarro from the United Kingdom, and Sania Nishtar from Pakistan. According to sources, the outcome of the first round was: Tedros 95, Nabarro 52, Nishtar 38. The second round outcome was: Tedros 121, Nabarro 62. A third round was necessary as Tedros was short of the two-thirds majority needed. In the final round, he reportedly garnered 133 votes, winning by an easy margin. In his acceptance speech, Tedros said, “The bottom line is, I think the world needs all three of us,” referring to the other two candidates. He said that he heard from members that it is necessary to “respect diversity,” which means “not imposing our will on others. They don’t want to be told. They want to be listened to first. That’s what I learned.” His top guiding priority will be universal health coverage. “All the world needs universal health coverage.” Half of people do not have health care, he said. I also heard clear messages that members want WHO to “be a better partner but lead from front and center. WHO is the undisputed leader of global health.” Responding to the challenges “will not be easy, in fact it will be difficult.” “I believe in us, in making a difference. Through partnership and hard work, anything is possible.” One expert on health and intellectual property rights said afterward that while Tedros did not mention IP rights during his campaign, his talk about health systems showed that he understands the importance of access to affordable medical products and of innovation. And an Ethiopian supporter asked about this issue said, “Do not fear him on intellectual property. He understands the importance.” Tedros swarmed as he enters hall for acceptance as victor Regional group representatives took the floor to congratulate him. The Southeast Asian region said it expects him to focus on strengthening programs for developing countries. Turkey on behalf of the European region, said, “We may not always agree with you. But we will listen to you.” Both the Pakistan and UK delegations, whose candidates lost, congratulated him. The UK chief medical officer said he was given a “clear mandate” including emergencies, reform and antimicrobial resistance. She also said, “I cannot say I am one who voted for you,” but that “we too will be drinking a glass this evening. For some it will be tea. For me it will be champagne.” The WHO issued a short background on Tedros (which it seems unclear yet whether to use his first name or last name), as follows: “Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was nominated by the Government of Ethiopia, and will begin his five-year term on 1 July 2017. “Prior to his election as WHO’s next Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia from 2012-2016 and as Minister of Health, Ethiopia from 2005-2012. He has also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board, and as co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. As Minister of Health, Ethiopia, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus led a comprehensive reform effort of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s health infrastructure, creating 3,500 health centres and 16,000 health posts; expanded the health workforce by 38,000 health extension workers; and initiated financing mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, he led the effort to negotiate the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, in which 193 countries committed to the financing necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As Chair of the Global Fund and of RBM, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus secured record funding for the two organizations and created the Global Malaria Action Plan, which expanded RBM’s reach beyond Africa to Asia and Latin America.” WHA anti-Tedros protestor in the Assembly press gallery Tedros overcame opposition from some in his country and elsewhere who charged him with being complicit in human rights violations in the country. A regional journalist shouted out condemnation of him to the entire Assembly moments before the opening speech of Chan on the first day. He was escorted from the room. In his remarks to the Health Assembly earlier today, Tedros mentioned the death of his younger brother to a neglected tropical disease when he was a child, and said it is pure luck that he survived. “Survival to adulthood cannot be taken for granted,” in certain parts of the world, he said, adding that people should not die because they are poor. Tedros offered five promises to WHO members: to work to fulfil WHO promise of universal health coverage; to offer a robust response to health emergencies; to empower countries to work towards their own health priorities, in what he called strengthening of the frontline of health; transform the WHO into a world-class work force, and put accountability and transparency at the heart of the WHO culture. He underlined the need to “shift trajectory” to combat non-communicable diseases, and tackle issues like obesity, smoking, poor diets, and sedentary life styles, which make for the “perfect storm.” He warned against complacency, and called for political leadership in issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, requiring innovative and collaborative partnerships. Tedros vouched to bring a “can do and will do culture” to the WHO, and improve geographical and gender balance in staff. He also underlined the importance of increased accountability and transparency for the WHO, and the fact that the organisation needs to earn confidence through results. “No one should elect me because I am from Africa,” he said in reference to the fact that the WHO never had an African leader, but because he can bring a fresh perspective, he is a convener, and can built partnerships, he said. “I am committed and will listen to you.” Catherine Saez contributed to this report. Image Credits: WHO, William New Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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 William New may be reached at email@example.com."Ethiopian Becomes First African Head Of World Health Organization" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.