March 01 , 2017

Debate with three candidates for DG WHO on March 6

ISLAMABAD: A moderated public debate discussion will be held in Geneva on March 6 with the three candidates for Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) nominated by its Executive Board, including Pakistan’s Dr Sania Nishtar, to explore the political leadership and diplomacy that will make a difference in challenging times for global health.

She has been named by the Pakistan government for the top WHO slot while Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was nominated by the Ethiopian government and David Nabarro by the British government.

The event to be live webcast has been organized by the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, in cooperation with the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House, the Rockefeller Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.

The introduction will be delivered by co-chairs Ilona Kickbusch, Director, Global Health Centre, the Graduate Institute, Geneva, and David Heymann, Head, Centre of Global Health Security, Chatham House, while Andrew Jack, Head of Curated Content and Editor, Financial Times, and Diah Saminarsih, Special Adviser to the Minister of Health of Indonesia, will serve as the moderators.

It has been stated that the WHO is selecting its new Director-General at a time when the global order is being challenged. There is a vibrant debate on how the multilateral development system can deliver in an increasingly complex environment and it can spearhead the transformation required to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the leadership role of the WHO in this highly politicized setting? What difference can a new Director General make? What form will WHO's health diplomacy take as heads of state and other sectors engage in the global health agenda? How can WHO play to its strengths and invest in its normative and convening capacities? How can it act on behalf of the most disadvantaged? Are countries and civil society organisations asking the impossible of a cash-strapped intergovernmental organisation?

Pakistan found a good candidate, Dr Sania Nishtar, for the top WHO post. She is known for her bold and transformational leadership in health. A combination of high-level experience in government, civil society and multilateral institutions as well as her background as a physician and scientist on public health uniquely positions her to drive the reform of the WHO, ensuring its fitness to deal with the health challenges of the 21st century. In every role she has taken on, her defining feature has been her ability to deliver results with high integrity. Her skills and experience range across institution-building, public policy, research, advocacy and service delivery and would make her one of the most qualified Director-Generals in the history of the WHO.

Dr Sania has built organizations from scratch — the globally recognized NGO Heartfile - a powerful and respected health policy voice in Pakistan, and Heartfile Health Financing, an access-to-treatment initiative to support Universal Health Coverage in mixed health systems. She is an effective leader who delivers quality results. She is the recipient of the Global Innovation Award for her ability to think laterally, incubate and take to scale fresh ideas, build partnerships, exploit synergies for systems building and create impact.

She served as federal minister in the 2013 caretaker government with responsibility for Health, Science and Technology, Information Technology, and Higher Education. As minister, she espoused the widely acclaimed accountability and transparency approach to working with the government. She has extensive public sector experience as member/chair of national commissions, public sector boards, restructuring committees, and reform task forces.

Dr Sania has strong civil society credentials as founder of civil society institutions, as a health policy voice demanding improved governance, and as a member of boards of many INGOs. She has received Pakistan’s Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Presidential award) for her contributions.

She has wide experience in global health in the multilateral system. She has been the Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and is co-chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. She has served on many international expert panels and is known for her leadership and consensus-building in global health.

As a physician cardiologist, Dr Sania has experience working in difficult health system settings. She has strong research credentials and was the principal investigator of the first case control study in Pakistan. She became an advocate for disease prevention and health promotion earlier on in her career when she used her study findings to develop public awareness campaigns.

She is widely published in peer reviewed journals and is the author of six books. Her latest book, Choked Pipes, is used as a post-graduate text book and a reference guide. It is the subject of a documentary by an award-winning filmmaker. She has led the Pakistan Lancet Series on health reform and is the author of Pakistan’s first compendium of health statistics and the first national public health plan for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and Health Promotion.



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