Global health leadership electing the WHO Director-General

Austin LIU

"Global Health Leadership" is critical because effective leadership in governing the global health domain can significantly improve people’s health and lives. The Director-General of the World Health Organization has a special, powerful and important role as a global health leader and in face of high expectations from many different stakeholders. WHO recently introduced a new process for appointing its Director-General which culminated in an election by its entire membership in May 2017. This report assesses the extent to which the new election process for WHO supports the identification of leadership qualities of the candidates for Director-General by discussing its openness, transparency, inclusiveness, fairness and legitimacy. It examines the consequences and impacts of the new elements in the campaign process, the significance of the change in decision-making processes, as well as the broader implications for WHO of this more politicised election. Based on the analysis, it argues that, the most valuable change to improving the campaign process, would be the addition of an independent election monitoring body. The delicate balance between WHO as a political and technical organisation is most reflected in its leadership. However, as health and the election of the WHO DG become ever more politicised, this could have the potential to derail the election process in the future, especially with the changing global political landscape and the increasing media interest and social media involvement. It is therefore of critical importance to design a transparent and accountable election process that maximises the search of leadership qualities and strengthens the leadership space of the Director-General, while also protects the unity of the organisation.