New hope for WHO?BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7043.1376 (Published 01 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1376
- Fiona Godlee
- Assistant editor BMJ, London WC1H 9JR
Term limits and more formal application procedures may bring a change in leadership
Last week, the World Health Organisation took a step that could halt its otherwise apparently inexorable decline. At its annual meeting in Geneva, the organisation's governing body voted to introduce a limit to the number of terms of office its director general can serve, becoming the first major United Nations agency to do so. While exempting the current incumbent from the new two term limit, the carefully worded resolution clearly implies that Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, now halfway through his second term, will have to formally reapply for the post on an equal footing with other candidates. Many people within and outside WHO are hoping that this will ensure a change of leadership in 1998. But unless other action is taken, they are likely to be disappointed.
The need for new leadership is clear and urgent. WHO is now seriously in debt. By the end of last year unpaid contributions from member states had reached $243m. To pay for its routine programmes, the organisation has borrowed its entire internal reserve of over $175m. As well as losing valuable interest on this money, such internal borrowing reduces WHO's ability to respond to sudden demands for action.
Internal commentators emphasise that this is not a cash crisis but a …