UK’s WHO DG candidate David Nabarro seeks Bangladesh vote

The UK’s candidate for the World Health Organisation’s top post is seeking Bangladesh’s support to make the UN health agency a “fully transparent and auditable” entity.

Nurul Islam
Published : 12 March 2017, 01:56 PM
Updated : 12 March 2017, 05:01 PM

Dr David Nabarro concluded his short visit in Dhaka on Sunday, as part of his global campaign, when he met with health minister Mohammed Nasim and senior government officials.

He also interacted with a group of journalists, including, at the British High Commission in Dhaka.

The election of the WHO’s eighth director-general will take place in May when its 194 member states convene in Geneva for the annual general meeting, the World Health Assembly.

Former Ethiopian foreign minister as well as health minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and former Pakistan’s health minister Dr Sania Nishtar are the other two candidates selected as finalists in the competition to replace Dr Margaret Chan, whose second term of office ends June 30.

The recent spate of global outbreaks including Ebola virus and the health challenges posed by climate change, an ageing population and non-communicable diseases and the shortage of new drugs are some of the issues of global concerns for the candidates taking part in the election process.

The WHO has been severely criticised for the way it dealt with the Ebola virus outbreak and some experts also raised the question of the relevance of this UN body during that period. The 2014 outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 11, 000 people.

Dr Navarro, since Sep 2014, has served as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Ebola, providing strategic and policy direction for the international response.

Replying to a question, the British doctor explained why Bangladesh should vote him?

He said based on his past experiences he would be able “to get WHO into the right place on its work”. And because of his work experiences in South Asia including Bangladesh, he is also familiar with the issues of health and healthcare in the region.

He also said of his professional experience in this region, his works on SDGs and climate change over the last two years as a special envoy of the UN Secretary were also “relevant” to Bangladesh.

“I love this country. I worked here in 1982 in the Save the Children. Many great things are done here. I am keen to encourage Bangladesh vote for me. If Bangladesh supports me, others will pay attention,” he said.

He has more than 30 years of experience in public health, nutrition and development work at the national, regional and global levels, and has held positions in NGOs, universities, national governments and the UN system.

He also served as a Senior Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza, Coordinator of the Movement to Scale Up Nutrition, and also Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition, a position he will continue to hold.

During Ebola outbreak, he said, the UN Secretary General brought him in when the virus was “advancing a dramatic way”.

After taking the responsibility, he said, he saw that there was “problem” and with the support of all they were able “to help WHO get back on track and after some months it was able to perform the role it should play”.

“It showed me there are changes needs in WHO so that it can pick up potential outbreaks more quickly, respond effectively, and make more noise when raising the alarm”.

“And so, in the second half of the 2O15, the Director General of WHO asked me to chair a group to advise her on how to reform WHO, so it could better help countries respond to outbreaks.

David Nabarro

“Our advisory group made some recommendations to create a more robust response capacity and the reason why I then decided I wanted to become Director General of WHO and it’s because I wanted to see this through,” he said, explaining his candidature.

“It’s something I believe in. It’s something that it's necessary because there is no alternative to WHO for dealing with those outbreaks and it’s something I understand I dealt with avian influenza; I dealt with SARS. I worked on cholera, and I am familiar of outbreak managements”.

“I believe by my past experiences that I have the expertise, the courage and the strategic skills and the management ability to get WHO into the right place on this work,” he said, adding that his primary offer was to make WHO “dependable and effective” in the outbreak situation.

“I am a person with a very clear and open track record of work on food, nutrition, on infectious disease, on climate change, on SDGs,” he said, adding that previously he raised money and delivered results in different fields. “I believe this is what the WHO needs”.

“WHO under my direction will be a fully transparent and auditable organisation by everyone because that’s the one way to run public services in this modern era,” he said.

Election process

The process to elect the next Director-General started last year on Sep 23 with the announcement of names of candidates nominated by the Member States.

Then, member states and candidates interacted in a password-protected web forum hosted on the WHO website.

In Nov, a live forum was held, at which candidates presented their vision for the WHO Member States and were also be able to answer questions about their candidacy.

In Jan, WHO’s Executive Board prepared a short list of five candidates. The Board members then interviewed them and selected three of them for the final voting which will take place in the World Health Assembly in May.

The new Director-General will take office on July 1 this year.

Meet the other candidates

The three candidates are one each from Africa, Asia and the Europe region.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia topped the vote of the executive members and is a candidate of African Union.

According to his campaign page, Ghebreyesus is a “visionary leader, and he guided Ethiopia and numerous global health organisations to achieve game-changing results and increase their impact”.

“I envision the world where everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live,” he said in his campaign vision.

Dr Sania Nishtar from Pakistan made 1O pledges in her campaign featuring issues to achieve “a renewed and reinvigorated” WHO.

“This requires bringing reforms to rapid fruition, embracing meaningful and timely transparency, institutionalising real accountability, ensuring value for money, and driving a culture based on results and delivery,” she said on her campaign page.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher