from The Internationalist and International Institutions and Global Governance Program

Podcast: An Assessment of Former WHO Director-Generals and Previous Rounds of Director-General Elections

August 16, 2016

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The following is a guest post by my colleague Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since 1948, seven individuals have served as the WHO director-general. Each was elected through a process that involved alliance formation and deal striking, and after election, each achieved varying degrees of success in terms of reforming the organization and fulfilling its mandate. If we agree that the DG’s leadership capabilities impact the performance of the WHO as an organization, and that what happened at an earlier point in time will affect the possible outcomes of a sequence of events occurring at a later point in time, it will be interesting to see what implications past experiences have for the upcoming DG election and the future of global health governance.

In this podcast, I discuss these and other questions with Jo Ivey Boufford, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, and Derek Yach, chief health officer at Vitality. They have joined me for the second of a three-part series on electing the next director-general of the World Health Organization.  Dr. Boufford served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from November 1993 to January 1997, and as acting assistant secretary from January 1997 to May 1997. While at HHS, she served as the U.S. representative on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization from 1994–1997.  Dr. Yach is a former executive director for noncommunicable diseases and mental health of the WHO. There, he served as cabinet director under Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland. In that capacity, he led the development of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity.…