By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
So far, the nomination Wedenesday by the 140th Executive Board session of the World Health Organization (WHO) of three of the six candidates does not come as unexpected for anyone closely following the work of the organization.
However, more important is how the votes were cobbled up to enable the board arrive at its decision, i.e., the nomination, namely of:
Dr. Tedros Adhanom (Ethiopia), Dr. David Nabarro (United Kingdom) and Dr. Sania Nishtar (Pakistan).
In its reporting of this outcome the WHO has properly followed the established United Nations practices of reporting of the names of candidates and member states, i.e., in alphabetical order. It is embarrassing to note even established news outlets fell to the trap of reporting it as indication Dr. Tedros being the likely winning candidate in May 2017 at the World Health Assembly in May 2017.
For instance, the ruling party stringers in Ethiopia immediately lifted their heads high up for the first time now; they jumped, as usual, to using the WHO announcement to circulate it with congratulatory message. Certainly, what they are doing is to gear up to relaunching fresh campaign with renewed confidence in Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy.
What is especially surprising however is the glee with which they welcomed the presumed support of Eritrea for him, who also happens to be of Eritrean extraction. They started beating their gongs already claiming their ‘good man’s’ victory, thrashing his competitors by winning all 34 votes of the 34-member Executive Board.
Equally amusing is that of the established ‘daily briefer’ to the international development community, Devex. I am referring to the January 25, 2017 reportage by Jenny Lei Ravelo, the Manila-based Devex senior reporter, who wrote “And the top 3 WHO director-general candidates are…“. Devex news report would have been better off without the vote counts. In there, I presume, are inconsistencies I would raise here:
Devex reporter, based on unofficial source from within, claims that Dr. Tedros Adhanom has won 34/34 votes, see the rest from the screenshot below, courtesy of Devex:
(i) I am surprised that Dr. Tedros should get 34/34, while three nations with their nationals as candidates (France, Pakistan and UK) had respective seats in the board and could vote at the same time for him. If so much is said about Dr. Tedros Adhanom, lobbyists portraying him as a formidable candidate, at least, according to what is appearing these days in both mainstream media and various lobbyist pages. Why could not those executive board members with candidates paly the interests of the home turf – usual practice in foreign ministries in determining, as necessary in collaboration with other government departments, to shore up chances of their national candidates? Why should they vote for Dr. Tedros Adhanom, as the screenshot above shows? That view does not hold water.
(ii) Given the stare of relations between Eritrea, chances are that they would not give their support. Similarly, given the deterioration of relations between Egypt and Ethiopia, they may not have that generosity of spirit or action to support the Ethiopian candidate.
(iii) It is possible that, as a member of EU and closely allied with the UK, Malta may also not give its support for the Ethiopian candidate.
There surely must be something wrong here, only a person who sets strategies in foreign ministries that determine the issues of candidatures to international bodies, be it member states or individual candidate to any expert body or high level position in international organizations, such as WHO’s now, should know about this better.
Possible to read into it is that, at play at the board session must have been the overlap of the search for respective candidates with strong professional backgrounds, while at the same time, possibly the geographical representation debate as the guiding principles and United Nations practices, must have played complicating role.
In fact, from EB Chairman Dr. Ray Busuttil’s summation at the meeting and his request to the rapporteur to announce the result Wednesday, one gets the sense that the journey to the final selection of the candidates was not easily arrived at.
At the height of such debate in the 1990s, the question of geographical rotation of the DG post was divisive. Luckily, it was resolved after nearly over a decade at the 128th session of the Executive Board (EB). In 2010, the EB agreed to the effect that the primary consideration should be a strong technical and public health background and extensive experience in international health. To the extent possilbe they kept mentioning of geographical rotation at an arms length, as EB128/27 show high contribution countries within the EU and Japan flounting their wallets.
In the documents to the boards 140th session, in agenda item EB140/INF./1, the WHO legal counsel followed precedent and atop of the criteria, he started in paragraph 8 (1) by underlining that the candidate, “he or she should have: (1) a strong technical background in a health field, including experience in public health.”
I presume, as I have repeatedly argued, this hardly is strictly one thing or another; there is no doubt that primacy should be accorded to professionalism, while member states should attach equal importance to personal integrity, in keeping with the basic principles of WHO. The organization’s Constitution has made this clear the task requires commitment with a view to achieving: “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.”
Respect for fundamental human rights is key issue here, as is personal integrity. I do hope this would come out clearly during the voting at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2017.
Nevertheless, I would like to state here that many exponents of geographical rotation fail to differentiate between practice and basic principles. I am not saying geographical rotation is useless. The election should not be about it all, or none. It is important to the extent it allowed qualified professionals from all regions to come forward and shine.
When the insistent on it is hard, the driving force is the ‘personal’ interests of governments. I have discussed this in PART I of my latest article under the same title, as this one. In other words, an exclusive focus on it distracts representatives from the importance of WHO to each one of the developing countries and the global community as a scientific organization.
Because of this, sometimes emotions compel representatives to put value on wrong candidate(s), regarding which experts look back and try to remind us how regionalism has killed the League of Nations.
A pediatrician associated with the British Medical Journal (BMJ), last September relayed what a senior WHO executive in Geneva told him what actually WHO needs:
“WHO does not necessarily need more money, it needs more trust by its member states and other actors to be able to set the right priorities, control its own budget, and to use its highly-qualified staff in the most efficient way.”
As for me, I would stand by a highly qualified scientist with personal integrity as a candidate to win the WHO DG post. I see no reason why the whole discussion for this science-led organization should be bogged down to United Nation practices of geographical rotation. Governments should put and back capable of candidates.
Astonishingly, nowhere do I see the existing WHO (s)election processes and principles closing the door on a candidate from a developing nation.
Unfortunately, as a person who has studied the traces of personal imprints Dr. Tedros Adhanom has left behind the offices he led as minister, I doubt he has left legacy of scientific leadership and managerial qualities or solid faith in principles. For that, consult my article: Does Dr. Tedros Adhanom have the requisite qualifications to become next WHO Director-General?
Lobbyists and Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s intensified campaign
When we come to the substance of the issues, in the last few days preceding the nomination by the Executive Board lobbyists and paid imagemaker agencies had been free to shift gear to pump articles exuding audacity claiming that only Dr. Tedros Adhanom could help realize WHO’s objective of “the fullest attainment of health” by all.
Untrue as the above claim is, without a doubt, more fiction than fact.
That is why I was compelled the moment I read some of it to react especially to one, as follows:
I hope in earnest the above would signal to readers the very low is credibility of their analysis and assessment. A slight prodding would show that it is the very example of the work of image-launderers their assertion lacking basis in reality. Take as one example their portrayal one of the 20 poorest countries in the world – Ethiopia – as an example of success in the health sector, about which they boldly claim, this is due to the transformational change Dr. Tedros Adhanom has brought about during his tenure as its minister of health (2005-2012).
If numbers are the issue, Eritrea’s achievement, a breakaway country from Ethiopia, shows better record in infant mortality rate at 34/1000. This is notwithstanding the permanent sanction it has been suffering is no point of fascination for lobbyists. While I am not pro-Eritrea in any untoward sense, political or any other, I recently wrote a piece including this achievement. The article examines the performances of the two nations in a state of no peace no war since 1998 – in a metaphorical sense comparing the abyss and the seemingly glowing star – the latter supported by the powers to be, although their ally now finds itself at war with its own people!
From my vantage point, I am disappointed that the falsehoods lobbyists have cobbled up embellish Dr. Tedros Adhanom, listing anything they wanted as his list of experiences packed with misrepresentations for which, we hear, wealthy philanthropists are very active behind him. One must ask in wonderment why thats is happening!
Let me state here, Ethiopians who follow their country’s progress through a measure of their lives and that of their loved ones do not agree with any action that teaches/forces them to accept inequality. Nor do they turn to high rise buildings, lofts, posh hotels and widened and paved streets, etc., as confirmation for them as their country’s development; instead they zoom on any sign of success through the lense of human development that shows them any change in their personal and community lives.
In this regard, informed Ethiopians attribute any successes to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have forced states members of the United Nations to engage in the toughest and widest genuine competitions to do something better on the human development front, each unto itself, its pride.
While the outcome by country is mixed, nonetheless, considerable progresses have been made, the most significant of which is in child mortality rates. Poverty and hunger? Forget it! The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has confirmed with sufficient data that 32.0 percent of Ethiopians by 2015 were undernourished, that is, by the end of the MDG period. This has gotten worse now because of the persistent failures of national policy, El Nino further exacerbating the situation.
That is why the so-called philanthropists are exploiting those MDG gains to serve their interests and business objectives best. On the hunger front, they are experimintally pushing genetically modified organisms (GMOS) as part of the agricultural practices. For that matter, this is done against prohibitions by the laws of the nation, which they have openly admitted violating it.
I recall distinctly that about 15 years ago one of today’s campaigners for Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s success in his bid for WHO’s highest post argued, just as I am doing now, against GMOs. Readers attention is directed to a February 20, 2002 article by the same person who wondered then if the efforts of thsoe now supporting the candidate could not be likened to Killing with Kindness?
Is there any reality in their claims in Ethiopia, when they attribute the decline in the mortality rate to Dr. Tedros Adhanom single handed efforts? Is he the person they aim to use to make more profits in the future, even control human destiny on this planet because of their control of agricultures and the rise in their profits and powers?
Yes, the worst thing about this whole thing is that their fiction now seems to became truth all of a sudden that everyone must accept; they are pushing my fellow countryman as a candidate to the WHO director-general post.
I leave aside the candidate’s human rights record for now, which would not allow him to become the ninth director-general. He was one of the persons responsible for the killings and imprisonments of thousands of Ethiopians, a matter philanthropists cannot and do not give a hoot! One thing we could agree on is that through their support that has helped him claim the laurels of ‘manufactured fame’ they have been helping Dr. Tedros Adhanom, from personal point of view, to realize his dream of winning one of the most coveted Geneva-based high level well-paying international posts, possibly to find him more useful later.
If we are talking about the whole of Ethiopia, regarding both maternal and child mortality, it is significantly lower in Tigray, while in the rest of the country it is five times as high! While that is a separate issue, something many informed Ethiopians hold against the Ethiopian WHO candidate and is still happening as an outcome of his ruling party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) – crimes of ethnic discrimination against other Ethiopians. True, one of the findings in Ethiopia is that the final MDG report shows child mortality rate has been fast declining since 1995 in all ALL DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. In that respect, the UN secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly on the MDG as at the closing year (2015) underlines:
“The annual rate of reduction in under-five mortality has accelerated since 1995 in countries of all income levels except in high-income countries. Although there is a link between a country’s level of income and its child mortality, the strong reductions in under-five mortality rates in a number of low-income countries—notably, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania — prove that low income need not be an impediment to saving children’s lives.”
This does not tell me it is the vision and work of Dr. Tedros Adhanom. Surely, nations have turned to focussing on development after the end of the Cold War, the first decade of the 2000s also becoming the height of philanthropic engagement, with monies by individual do-gooders significantly flowing. Nonetheless, as discussed in Part I, for Ethiopians it was a time when the TPLF has improved its skills in hoodwinking everyone, both the victims of diseases and poverty as well as philanthropists in the rich world.
This period for Ethiopia also overlaps with ethnic politics state practices of discrimination in unhindered manner and its robbery and corruption of a poor nation’s state institutions to realize its planned and indefinite occupation of Ethiopia.
Because of that I have expressed my opposition to Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy to the post of WHO’s director-general. For that, I would ask readers to consult my various articles..
The logic behind my opposition to him becoming WHO director-general is very simple: What has never been good for poverty and diseases-vitiated Ethiopia cannot be good for WHO. Dr. Tedros Adhanom comes from Ethiopia, a primary focus country for WHO, as described by Richard Horton on The Lancet on October 13, 2016. Unfortunately, TPLF’s priorities, visions and priorities instead have exposed Ethiopia to massive corruption, abuses and worst violation of human rights.
If in the final analysis Dr. Tedros Adhanom wins the election, we would continue to campaign against it. The purpose of voicing our concerns is merely to save WHO from the mismanagement Dr. Tedros Adhanom could unleash. We fear there would be more conflicts of interests his providers of the crown he is angling to put on his head are likely to seek and demand against the organization, by the nature of the possible and alleged understanding between him and them.