Interviews with the candidates running for WHO director general

In May 2017 a new director general of the World Health Organization will be elected—one of the world’s most critical appointments. The process is long and highly political.

On 25 January 2017, the World Health Organization announced that three finalists in the running to become the next director general are Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Sania Nishtar, and David Nabarro. 

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ, and Suerie Moon, policy director at the Global Health Centre of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, have interviewed the six candidatesthe questions asked were based on the recent publication in The BMJ of Ilona Kickbusch et al's analysis paper "How to choose the world’s top health diplomat".

Flavia Bustreo

Born: 17 August 1961 (age 55)
Nationality: Italian
Current role:
Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Children's Health, WHO

"... You have to work with your critics. They criticise because they care."

Key policies:
Recover trust
Non-govermental funding
Climate change

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Philippe Douste-Blazy

Born: January 1, 1953 (age 63)
Nationality: French
Current role:
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

"... We have to implement the three Rs; reform, responsiveness, results."

Key policies:
Strengthen primary health care
Integrate public health
Novel funding methods

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David Nabarro

Born: 25 August, 1949 (age 67)
Nationality: British
Current role:
Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General.

"...Deal with the big outbreaks, deal with them quickly, deal with them without regret"


Key policies:
WHO as a catalyst
Multilateral working
Inclusion of non-state organisations

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Sania Nishtar

Born: February 16, 1963 (age 53)
Nationality: Pakistani
Current role:
Founder and president of Heartfile

"... Freedom of information is the oxygen of democracy"


Key policies:
Tackle politicisation
Increase accountablity

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Mikós Szcóska

Born: July 27, 1960 (age 56)
Nationality: Hungarian
Current role:
Director of The Health Services Management Training Centre of the Semmelweis University

"[WHO] took the blame for not being an operational organisation... It should transform to become one"

Key policies:
Big data
WHO becoming operational

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Tedros Adhanom

Born: March 03, 1965 (age 51)
Nationality: Ethopian
Current role:
Minister, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister


"We have to focus on implementation... we have to get things done"

Key policies:
Consensus building
Internal transformation

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