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Global Health Leadership and the Mandate of the WHO

Global Health Leadership and the Mandate of the WHO

After 60 years of esteemed leadership, the World Health Organization (WHO) is embroiled in a crisis of identity characterized by underfunding, incoherent policy prioritization and administrative squabbles. Her governance credentials in the global health field are under threat from vested interests and better funded entrants. By reviewing the current reform process in the dynamic context of a politico-economic timeline, this paper seeks to unravel underlying causes and explores propositions by applying a good governance model in the light of accountability and human right concerns.

An Evolutionary Content Dissertation 
by Iboro Ekpo Nta, 22 November 2011

"Although, this dissertation sees the current WHO governance reforms as opportune and necessary it opines that the process is non-comprehensive. Whilst it agrees with several actions like the quest to ensure sustainable funding and redefine capabilities, this paper holds the view that the classic top-down error is again at hand despite the advantage that Member States are in the driver seat of the process. It predicts several theoretical organizational governing models as probable alternatives and believes that greater private involvement is inevitable. The challenge herein is how to get non state actors into a workable form of mutually beneficial regulation, legal or ethical that limits the fears of possible absorption of a dysfunctional plutocracy within the WHO and the resultant disruption of project objectivity.

By using content garnered from a dynamic real-time situational analysis this thesis posits that the leadership crisis faced by the WHO reflects similar conditions at country level, where governments under the compulsion of market forces have reneged on their pledge to population health. The reforms therefore need to begin from ground up by prodding MS to rethink and review national health policy in relation to global realities.

Thus, as deliberations continue on the governance aspirations of the agency, there is a need to weed out vested interests, harmonize administrative and technical competence and return priority setting powers to democratic, constitutional and accountable entities. Irrespective of the structural modifications eventually adopted, prior to demanding international aid, Member States must defend the right to health of citizens and strive to preserve the multilateral identity of the World Health Organization." (Conclusions, p. 59f.)

Master Thesis 2010/2011 submitted to the Global Health Department, Maastricht University, by Iboro Ekpo Nta. Supervisors: Anja Krumeich, Maastricht University, and Remco van de Pas, Wemos.  Contact: i.nta@student.maastrichtuniversity.nl. Thanks to the author and the supervisors for allowing us to add this great resource to our collection of documents related to WHO reform.

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