As the Director-General of WHO, I would ensure that WHO can deliver in four areas: (1) alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals; (2) transforming WHO to respond to outbreaks and health emergencies; (3) trusted engagement with Member States; and (4) advancing people-centred health policies.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – with its focus on equity, inclusiveness and leaving no-one behind - builds on the spirit of Primary Health Care, championed by WHO’s Member States for four decades. WHO’s contribution to the SDGs should include: enabling all people everywhere to attain the highest possible standard of health; continuing attention to health’s economic, social, political and environmental determinants; completing the unfinished work for the Millennium Development Goals; addressing the growing challenge non-communicable diseases; and ensuring universal access to effective health services, medicines, technologies and financial protection. In all my work within the UN system I have encouraged horizontal, cross-disciplinary, inter-sectoral working and have advocated whole of government and whole of society approaches that will be needed to address the SDG health agenda.
Ensuring capacity to prepare for and respond to disease outbreaks and health emergencies will always be a key priority of WHO. It must do this in ways that are predictable, robust and reliable, and that reflect the interests of all nations and peoples. This will include developing national capacities in line with the International Health Regulations; encouraging strategic research and innovation; urgent strategic action on anti-microbial resistance; giving special attention to the needs of vulnerable and threatened communities – including those who seek to move and take refuge so as to escape suffering; and reinforcing effective global responses to severe health crises. I intend to complete the work needed to secure WHO’s credibility as an organization with both the normative excellence and the operational agility needed to lead responses to health crises.
When engaging with Member States, WHO should be seen as the strategic leader, innovator, catalyst and convener for people’s health. WHO should do this in ways that reflect both current realities and the needs of coming decades. This requires a culture that constantly heeds the interests and concerns of Member States and their people; that leads through empowerment and example, that engages with all other actors and thought leaders committed to promoting health and health equity, and that encourages all concerned to trust the effectiveness and responsiveness of WHO.
In advancing people-centred health policies, WHO should serve as a champion for the interests, well-being and capabilities of all health care providers. WHO should intensify efforts to ensure the effectiveness of health caregivers, encouraging skills development and competency testing, and protecting the interests (and physical safety) of all who sustain people’s health in households, communities, workplaces, health care facilities and institutions.
Community engagement and inclusive partnering will be critical for each and every one of these priorities. I have seen the importance of community ownership and engagement in all my professional work. I have seen how Ebola eventually caused families to change how they buried their dead, and appreciated the heartache caused by this profound change of practice. I see how Zika now challenges women to reconsider when they become pregnant. These decisions on how a person comes into the world, how they leave it and how they are supported when they are ill are the most intimate decisions people make and often reflect firmly-held belief systems. That is why people and their representatives (civil society, faith leaders, traditional leaders, and women’s groups) need to be engaged, and listened to, whenever health policies are being shaped and implemented.
Inclusive partnering means engaging in broad coalitions and nurturing movements for transformative change. It will require transparent handling of multiple interests and encourage guaranteed and inclusive involvement of less powerful but vitally important stakeholders – be they small nations, minority groups, people with special needs or those who are so often neither seen nor heard, and are often left behind.