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Tedros Adhanom and stark reality facing WHO Member States

Tedros Adhanom

The decision that the World Health Assembly is expected to take in a few weeks’ time in electing the next Director- General of the WHO, will be a make or break one. The choice is very limited. It is either saving the organization from its debacle and to make it relevant to address 21st century global health challenges, or to make it a dinosaur incapable of addressing persistent and emerging health challenges. The second option will be disastrous by all the imaginations, especially for developing countries which are the weakest and most vulnerable to respond to major health crises by themselves. African countries will be the direct victims of the latter option. This is simply because most of these countries are too weak and too vulnerable to have any dent on diseases, poverty and backwardness. It is, therefore, incumbent upon them to choose the director general on the basis of professional and technical excellence not on political or geographical confinements.

In November 2016, the Executive Board of the WHO announced three nominees for the post of the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO). The nominees are Tedors Adhanom (Ethiopia), David Naborro (U.K) and Sania Nishtar (Pakistan).

The final decision will be made through secret electronic ballots during the 70th session of the World Health Assembly to be held in Geneva from 22 to 31 May 2017. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body and its main functions are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The 2017 World Health Assembly has critical and historic responsibilities at hand: (a) to ensure that the new Director-General is elected in all transparency and in accordance with the constitution establishing the Organization; (b) to make full use of established comparators or indicators to measure professional relevance and expertise needed to lead global health institution; (c) to elect a Director-General that views health as human rights issue and has the capacity to dig-out the Organization from the quagmire in which it finds itself currently. Member States should uphold the values and principles enshrined in the WHO constitution, that established the organization in 1948 and its secretariat including the Director-General. The constitution states that “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”. The same constitution underlines that “The health of peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest cooperation of individuals and States”.

The new Director General should also be someone who could think outside of a box to reverse the declining significance of the Organization. The WHO is in dire financial distress as major donors withdrew their financial support to the Organization due to lack of visible impacts and successive failure in responding to major health crises with global ramifications such as Ebola. Poor countries are too weak to bring any meaningful financial and/or political support to the WHO if and when needed. In fact, such countries depend heavily on the financial support of donors and international organizations such as the WHO itself, Melinda & Gets Foundation, Carter Center for the Eradication of Malaria, the Millennium Challenge Account of the USA, EU support for health, etc.

Excessive prudence and caution need to be made to choose a Director General who measures up to the challenges crippling the organization and troubling the international community at large. Closer examination of the three candidates provides basis for an informed decision making.

  • Professionally Adhanom is a biologist turned malaria specialist, spent most of his professional life as politician. He is the inner circle of the disgraced and dictatorial ethnic junta that has been ruling Ethiopia for the last 25 year. He claims that he is “the Director General that the World Health Organization Needs”. Adhanom needs to clarify why and how? Why the organization needs now a politician not health specialist? Is he planning to change the name of the Organization from “World Health Organization” to “World Organization” with no “Health”?

  • David Nabarro is physician by training and senior official of the United Nations. He advanced his professional life on global health policy issues and has notable experience in WHO and other United Nations Organizations. He pledges to bring his professional and academic excellence to ensure that the “WHO is in a position to be the undisputed leader on all health issues. WHO must constantly strive for excellence in people’s health and health systems everywhere”.

  • Nishta, like Nabarro, is a physician by training, spent significant part of her professional life fighting against disease in her own country and the Asian hemisphere. . Her web page reads: “A combination of high-level experience in government, civil society and in multilateral institutions, as well as her background as a physician, scientist and thought leader on public health, uniquely positions her to drive the reform of the WHO, ensuring its fitness to deal with the health challenges of the 21st century.

Any miscalculation in decision making or picking the wrong candidate form such a short list will permanently remain a dark spot in the history of global governance structure. It will also make the desirability and relevance of such governance questionable at a time when major donor countries are grappling with the rise of hardline and dangerously “in ward-looking” political extremism.

Where do African countries stand? Where has the principle of Equitable Geographical Distribution gone?

So far, Tedros Adhanom and his regime in Addis Ababa have succeeded in blindfolding, manipulating and deceiving African countries under the slogan of “Pan Africanism”. For example, Adhanom took personal credit for voicing the “Africa concern” over the International Criminal Court (ICC). He particularly claimed that he worked for the deferral of the ICC cases against several African leaders accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing. He officially declared that his “wisdoms” was the reason behind the withdrawal of several recent cases lodged by ICC and procedural amendments to the Rome Statute”. The question is that how can Adhanom with such self- confessed heinous crimes committed against international law and the decision of the ICC promote the moral and ethical values of WHO?

When it comes to the candidature of Tedros Adhanom to the post of WHO Director-General, there are several issues that African Ministries of Health are not made aware. One such area is the practice of Equitable Geographical Distribution of professional and higher-level United Nations Posts. According to informed sources, the principle which is widely applied by the United Nations, including the World Health Organization is intended to ensure fair and proportional distribution of professional and higher level posts among member States. Ethiopia contributes the least to the budget of the United Nations and Specialized agencies such as the World Health organization. This is due to its low level of development (least developed country). Reportedly, recruitment for Ethiopians within the United Nations is heavily restricted because of over representation, beyond the established quota for the country. Informed sources indicate that professional and higher level posts are allocated for countries in proportion to their level of contribution to the budget of the organization. Despite its tiny financial contribution, currently, Ethiopia holds the following professional and high-level posts in WHO and other United Nations Organizations:

  • There are more than 20 professional staff and higher level posts held by Ethiopians in in three International Organizations: WHO, UN-AIDS and Global Fund;

  • The post of Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), at Under-Secretary-General level, is held by an Ethiopian (

  • The post of Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the level of Under-Secretary-General is held by an Ethiopian (

  • The post of Assistant Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is held by an Ethiopian (

  • The post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Roll Back Malaria (RBM) is held by an Ethiopian. RBM is a multibillion dollar partnership project consisting of the, Gates & Melinda Foundation, WHO Global Malaria Programme, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, World Bank, US President’s Malaria Initiative and major pharmaceutical companies. If Tedros Adhanom is elected to the post of WHO Director-General, there will be direct conflict of interest between RBM and WHO as the two entities should not in principle be held by nationals of one country, especially a country that has been consecutively ravaged by Malaria outbreaks such as Ethiopia.

The above sample of higher category posts do not include other international organizations such as the World Bank, Africa Development Dank, International Monetary Fund, Regional Organizations such as African Union, Economic Commission of Africa IGAD, etc.

According to sources and official records, in most cases, Ethiopia amassed such a high-level representation in global governance structure either on behalf of the African continent or by voting against potential candidates from other African countries. Where is “pan Africanism” that Adhanom and his regime are purported to champion? Are they blindfolding, manipulating and deceiving African political leaders?

African countries need to reflect a little deeper whether Adhanom and the regime fighting for his candidacy are trustworthy to promote and protect their interests. They should know that Tedros Adhanom is shroud political animal. He is corrupt and incapable (with no proven experience) of leading institutionally complex, financially robust and operationally intricate international institutions. He is considered by the Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International as the spin-doctor and henchman of the dictatorial regime of Ethiopia. Being a minster in one of the poorest countries and poorly funded institutions should not be taken as a yardstick to assume leadership positions in globally vital institutions such as the WHO.

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Tedros Adhanom and stark reality facing WHO Member States Reviewed by Admin on 1:04 AM Rating: 5

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