Offline: WHO—the story so far…

The Lancet
Jun 01, 2019 Volume 393Number 10187p2175-2274
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/issue/current

 

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Offline: WHO—the story so far…
Richard Horton
… WHO is also opening up. Past Director-Generals have viewed the agency as a handmaiden to member states. They have been reluctant to strike out alone, to set agendas, and to challenge governments—they have been reluctant to lead. They have feared the backlash of countries suspicious of multilateral institutions, countries that can hold WHO hostage by threatening to withhold its budget. The agency has therefore become profoundly risk averse. But there is evidence of change. Tedros has invited critical voices to address usually austere Assembly delegates. This year, he gave a platform to 18-year-old Natasha Mwansa from Zambia, who insisted that whatever was to be discussed by Ministers of Health would not be delivered successfully without the full participation of young people. She spoke about the importance of education in unleashing the potential of nations—“Ignorance is the deadliest disease we can ever fight.” And Tedros himself spoke about issues that his predecessors have avoided. The importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The necessity of partnering with civil society. And finding ways to bypass member-state funding shortfalls through innovative financing mechanisms, such as a new WHO Foundation. He was explicit. WHO was now in the business of managing, not avoiding, risk…