Six candidates have been proposed by Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) to replace the outgoing Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, by the end of June next year.
Representing the continent Africa, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, joined the run for the top job by competing against candidates from Italy (Dr Flavia Bustreo), France (Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (Dr David Nabarro), Pakistan (Dr Sania Nishtar), and Hungary (Dr Miklós Szócska).
Desperate to win this $260,000-a-year UN job, Dr. Tedros Adhanom hired a US-based consultancy firm, Mercury Public Affairs. But that doesn’t spare him from the expected humiliation.
On 1-2 November, a forum was held for the six candidates to present their visions to WHO member states and the public, and answer some questions from member states on their candidacy.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom gave a presentation, courtesy of Mercury Public Affairs. A test to his competence, however, comes when member states start asking questions to each candidate based on the presentations they made. To the dismay of the forum, Dr. Tedros Adhanom failed to answer any of the questions.
The Chair of the forum had to intervene a number of times to clarify the questions as this embarrassingly incompetent African candidate pleaded “question not clear” every time he was asked.
A representative from Brazil, for instance, asked, ” …. based on your presentation, …. you are a candidate you claimed to be from a developing country [Africa – the South]. In my view you have presented with a espousing agenda very much aligned with priorities of the north [Asia]…. So how can we translate your entrance as a development candidate?”
The visibly stressed Dr. Tedros went blank and requested for a repeat of the question. The Brazilian man rephrased his question in a manner that can be understood even by a freshman. It doesn’t help. The African candidate, Dr. Tedros of Ethiopia, only mumbled a few incoherent words that in fact sent the entire WHO forum to a laughter. It was obvious to them that the African candidate is simply a joke.
With competence now out of the question, the only hope for this desperate African candidate for the top job is when the question of “whose turn” to run the agency comes to play.
No one from Africa has ever been a Director-General of WHO. The African Union has thrown its support behind Dr. Tedros’ candidacy and argues it’s time for the continent to have more high-profile international roles.
Despite strong opposition from those who say “merit” should be the key factor to appoint a WHO chief, Dr. Tedros may slip through the cracks and grab the job if it is decided that the job should be given to an African, even if that means to someone as incompetent as Dr. Tedros Adhanom.
In January 2017, WHO’s executive board will secretly vote on a short list of up to five candidates. The board’s 34 members will then interview those candidates and nominate up to three to go forward for consideration by the World Health Assembly in May 2017.
The new Director-General will take office on 1 July 2017.