How to choose the world’s top health diplomat

by Ilona Kickbusch, Ngaire Woods, Peter Piot et al.
BMJ 2016;355:i5746 – Published: 28 October 2016

6 pp. 535 kB

In May 2017 a new director general of the World Health Organization will be elected – one of the world’s most critical appointments. What does the job of director general involve? WHO has outlined selection criteria, but the position is ultimately a political one. Technical excellence in public health is only part of the requirement, although it does provide additional credibility and insight for decision making. A fundamental problem for WHO, and any intergovernmental organisation, is that the interests of member states are often mutually exclusive, and the states may need to be cajoled into collective action. Candidates are required to present their visions and priorities as if this was a presidential race. Most of them now have glossy campaign materials and Twitter accounts and are promoting themselves and their agendas, supported by the diplomatic apparatus of their countries.

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