By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
WHO makes official its candidates to the DG post
Dr. Tedros Adhanom, nominated by Ethiopia, PhD in malaria research
Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, nominated by France, MD in cardiology
Dr. Flavia Bustreo, nominated by Italy, MD in women’s, and children’s health – female candidate
Dr. Miklós Szócska, nominated by Hungary, MD, Physician
Dr. Sania Nishtar, nominated by Pakistan, MD in cardiology – female candidate, and,
Dr. David Nabarro, nominated by the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, MD in general medicine
From its first day in 1948, WHO has been run by medical doctors only, beginning with the first Director-General Dr. Brock Chisholm of Canada, a psychiatrist. He is often credited with and remembered for his contribution to WHO’s recognition in its constitution in its Principle 1: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
And as a matter of fact, presently the list of the candidates is comprised of five medical doctors, one PhD holder (Tedros Adhanom); two of the candidates are female. In addition to medicine, only the Hungarian candidate has background in management from Harvard University.
The French, Italian and UK candidates do know the UN system very well from inside, having arisen to cabinet level posts in the WHO and two of them in system-wide responsibilities at the under-secretaries-general levels within the United Nations system.
Four of the candidates also have served at the political level in their respective nations as government ministers.
If at all worth anything, especially for non-African decision-makers, it is only Dr. Tedros Adhanom that has received regional endorsement from the African Union (AU). Normally, the African candidature has been known throughout the United Nations as a broken system. As individuals or as nations, candidates get elected to membership into the United Nations bodies and its specialized agencies without merit or capacity to contribute.
In this connection, mention needs to be made about Burundi’s case, a country literally in civil war with the constant commission of terrible human rights violations that continue to claim the lives of thousands of Burundians and dislocating several tens of thousands as refugees in neighbouring countries. In December 2015, the UN Security Council had to hold its meetings on the ground in the crisis-ridden nation to calm the situation, which has not put any sense into the head of illegitimate president Pierre Nkurnuziza and his cronies.
Who would forget that Burundi was elected by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2015 as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), on the recommendation of the African Union and the work of its candidature committee, at the popular level in Africa otherwise the AU known as the dictators’ club?
On October 27, 2015, a frustrated UNWATCH observed about this horror in the international system, as follows:
“Burundi’s corrupt government has trampled the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, and commits extrajudicial killings and torture of detainees, particularly members of opposition parties…It is one of the last countries in the world that should be elected by the UN as a world judge of human rights.”
If one replaces Burundi’s name by Ethiopia, the information would still be real and true. The repressive TPLF regime in Ethiopia was made a member of the Human Rights Council, the first time in 2013 and was re-elected along with Burundi in 2015.
What such elections mask is the fact of such nations as Ethiopia and Burundi being dictatorial power grabbers, the consequence of which the countries’ instability – beyond the lives of citizens – the regimes having become threats to human and civil rights of everyone. In consequence of this, we see at present how Ethiopia has been endangered by the likelihood of more popular uprisings in most parts of the country, civil war and a real possibility of regime collapse, all these engendered by the TPLF regime’s ethnic-based policies and bottomless corruption and nepotism.
Again, Ethiopia was elected for a seat in the United Nations Security Council on the recommendation of the AU and its candidature committee. This came even when the country is not capable of helping itself, much less the Security Council to shoulder its “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” under Chapter V, Article 24 of the United Nations Charter.
It is because of these anomalies, Human Rights Watch noted:
“Ethiopia has a horrendous human rights record – but that didn’t stop its election this week to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member. It’s worth noting too that Ethiopia – implicated in the deaths of hundreds of peaceful protesters in recent months – is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
Ethiopia, among Africa’s leading jailors of journalists, has decimated independent civil society and misused its counterterrorism law to stifle peaceful dissent. Arbitrary arrests and torture continue to be major concerns. The ruling coalition won 100 percent of parliamentary seats at federal and regional levels in the 2015 elections, after years of restrictions on opposition parties and supporters.
Despite the dire human rights situation, Ethiopia is a now a member of both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council. Its track record on the rights council has been poor: it has consistently blocked cooperation with UN special mechanisms, not permitted access to a single special rapporteur since 2007 – other than the special rapporteur on Eritrea, unsurprising given the ongoing “cold war” between the two countries. UN special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, the right of food, and the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity all have outstanding requests for visits.
Ethiopia should stop hiding its own human rights record from international scrutiny, and as a member of both the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, cooperate fully with UN special mechanisms, in particular the rapporteurs on peaceful assembly and torture to further investigate the human rights situation. Moreover, Ethiopia’s international partners should be supporting a credible, independent investigation into abuses during the Oromo protests.”
Moreover, of late the international community has learned that the murderous regime in Ethiopia has become cause for concern for the United Nations having repeatedly killed peaceful protestors in what is considered crimes against humanity. As the Human Rights High Commissioner made it clear on September 13, 2016, when opening HRC’s 33rd session, since November 2015 the UN has been urging international inquiry into those killings, which the regime to this date has refused to cooperate with the UN.
The high commissioner is accusing the TPLF regime of “excessive and lethal use of force against protestors, enforced disappearances, and mass detentions, including of children, as well as by worrying restrictions on civil society, the media and opposition.”
What on Earth can now justify the candidacy of Dr. Tedros Adhanom to become the director-general of WHO, when as a politburo member in the ruling party of Ethiopia, in violation of the nation’s laws, the United Nations Charter and international law, has participated in decision-making that has allowed the persistent practices of illegal imprisonments, torture, murder, disappearances and oppression of citizens?
The failure of the international system is that not only Ethiopia is a member of both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council now, but in the HRC it is also one of the Council’s vice presidents. Sadly, Foreig nMinister Tedros Adhanom happens to be now a candidate for the highest post in WHO, when the international community by now is aware he is a person who has blood in his hands and that he cannot defend the organization’s nine principles, as contained in its constitution.
I am certain that the fierce campaign the foreign minister has been waging since his confirmation by the dictators’ club at the end of January 2016 perhaps is driven by one of the following or a combination of all three reasons:
(a) attraction of WHO chief’s €214,000 annual salary with no benefits included as Politico has estimated
(b) to fight from within the international system to save the TPLF by misinforming the peoples of the world about its crimes against humanity in Ethiopia; and
(c) an escape for himself from the sinking TPLF ship and the consequent responsibilities for the crimes committed against the Ethiopian people.
The TPLF has been a part of Tedros Adhanom’s campaign, funding him generously to spend money as he likes for his winning and dining with diplomats to win their support and also travels around the world to do the same. In countries, where there is accountability the treasuries have not handed the key to their vaults to their WHO candidates.
We read the experiences of the remaining five candidates, who are competing with Dr. Tedros Adhanom for the same post- It is an instructive example, when Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French WHO candidate, says “he has paid for many hotels out of his pocket”, since he is only being paid €100 per diem, according to Politico.
Similarly Dr. Sania Nishtar of Pakistan has said she would post her campaign expenses for transparency’s sake. Ethiopia is the only country that behaves she is made for gold diggers, subsidized by unknown hands, the only requirement being ruling party ethnicity! There must be something Dr. Sania Nishtar knows. She must know something or has heard about the rumors of the pharmaceutical industry and Western wealthy people paying for some candidates. It may be for that, she said she was going by the book and taking advantage of WHO regional committee meetings for her campaign. Adding she hinted:
“Regarding the campaign budget, I am being sponsored by the government of Pakistan and no one else,” she said. “I am pledging in my manifesto that I will voluntarily make my own electoral campaign financing a matter of public record for scrutiny.”
Dr. Douste-Blazy also underlined, “I’ll disclose all my spending and urge everyone to do the same,” he said. One does not hear any openness on the part of Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who has been talked about his close relations with the Gates Foundation. He stintingly aired out, East African nations are pulling resources for him, although nothing has so far materialized, according to AllAfrica. I agree with Politico’s skepticism, where it says, the said East African nations didn’t say how many countries or how much money [and when] they pool the resources. Who is financing the candidates is an essential question to dispel the rumors.
In fact, Dr. Tedros Adahanom has hired Mercury Public Affairs, a US-based public relations firm to polish and render his image and credentials acceptable to the 193 states of the 194 membership of WHO.
Teddy has probably gone to the right firm to get his image laundered. However, I doubt if, if at all it could remove the stains, especially the integrity issues, I had briefly touched upon in previous articles, the poor management skills he had been dealt with and now finally mercilessly bleeding a poor nation’s taxpayers in the midst of the El Nino drought and ailing economy.
No doubt Mercury Public Affairs may have it all, as its statement on capacity and professional declaration explains. The self-promotion advertisement by the firm states “We have world-class experts across a dozen different disciplines, all collaborating to drive the external environment and execute winning campaigns.”
With all sincerity, I say, Ethiopia deserved something better than the current deceit and bloodletting, while he is in leadership. So also deserves WHO to better serve the peoples of the world.
WHO, as the making of visionary people with commitment to its principles
From humble beginnings, as an idea between the only three medical doctors at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco on May 2, 1945, the World Health Organization (WHO) was born. Those three were Dr Szmeing Sze, a member of the Chinese delegation; Dr. Karl Evang, a member of the Norwegian delegation, and Dr. Geraldo De Paula Souza, a member of Brazil’s delegation, according to Dr.Sze’s WHO: From Small beginnings.
Having struck friendship, the three with their sense of humor used to describe their gatherings as “medical lunch”. The idea of a world health body was first floated by Dr. Karl Evang, who simply suggested: “Why don’t’ we start a new health organization?”
Dr. Sze noted that he was skeptical, thinking that they were sent to San Francisco to draw up the Charter of the United Nations. Most of all, he knew that there was no such thought before; and yet Dr. Evang’s enthusiasm won and the three “became keen to start something.”
Dr. Sze recalls that the other two doctors, members of the “medical lunch” group, put the lead responsibility to create the ‘health organization’ to the Chinese delegation.
Dr. Sze realized that since there already was the League of Nations Office International d’Hygiéne Publique (OIHP), established in 1907, the Latin American regional organization, the Health Division of UNRWA and Egypt’s Sanitary, Maritime na Quarantine Board, he thought it was a matter of “trying to tidy up the situation and of pulling all these disparate organizations into a single entity.”
The path they chose for this was to have the word “health” inserted in the United Nations, which was done with efforts by Dr. Geraldo De Paula Souza.
While this had not given them opportunity to have a conference to be called on health, at a dinner party Dr. Sze found himlsef seated next to Alger Hiss, the Secretary-General of the Conference. It gave him an opportunity to consult him how to go about their idea of a health organization. Readily, Alger Hiss suggested they could present a “declaration.”
It is in line with that suggestion that on May 8, 1945 a joint declaration was presented to the Conference in the names of the governments of Brazil and China. When this was happening Dr. Evang was not in place. He was recalled back to Norway following its liberation from the Nazi war to become his country’s health minister.
This declaration was picked up by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that later in February 1946 called for and International Health Conference, which took place from 19 June to 22 July, where the WHO Constitution was drafted, adopted and signed.
What helped in building consensus on the location of WHO in Geneva, Dr. Sze opined, whether mental health problems should be included in WHO Constitution. It was WHO’s first Director-General Dr. Brock Chisholm, who was a psychiatrist that succeeded in persuading members states later to strictly focus on the preventive side of health, as WHO’s focus.
Therefore, it was to accommodate Dr. Chisholm’s interest that the preamble of the WHO Constitution bore a sentence, which states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
As can be garnered from the foregoing, WHO’s creation was entirely the work of the only three medical doctors present during the drafting of the United Nations Charter at San Francisco. It is a lesson that cannot be ignored how a few determined individuals can still change the world to the better, as also true the corollary is.
If the World Health Assembly (WHA), as the governing body of the World Health Organization in May 2017 is not careful in protecting the legacies of eight directors-general to date, it would be accused by coming generations of having committed a disastrous mistake by selecting the wrong candidate, whose past and present has shown enmity to the very principles and mission of the organization, as we know them.
Consequently, WHA would need to be laser-eyed in barring a candidate, who is a proponent of ethnic policies and ethnic inequality, in upholding the ideas and objectives of the United Nations Charter, bearing in mind the need for continued reaffirmation of “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women”.
Surely, what is inconsistent with the UN Charter cannot be in harmony with the WHO Constitution. While an initiative of DR Chisholm, unlike the TPLF and its candidate Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the WHO we have known to date advocates “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.”
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* This article is updated Sunday 15:42 with added materials.