Margaret Chan wins nomination for second WHO leadership term

Margaret Chan is up for another term as director-general of the World Health Organization — a position the Chinese national is expected to secure.

The WHO executive board endorsed Chan’s nomination on Wednesday (Jan. 18). The nomination has to be approved by the World Health Assembly, which includes representatives of all WHO member states, before Chan can officially assume a second five-year term at the helm of the Geneva-based U.N. agency. The assembly will consider her nomination when it meets in May in Geneva.

If approved by the World Health Assembly, Chan will serve her second term from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2017.

Among Chan’s expected priorities for her second term is the continuation of the ongoing reform process within WHO. This reform agenda was approved in November by the WHO executive board, which also gave Chan authority to implement some of the reform measures immediately.

Successfully implementing these reforms amid global health challenges of the 21st century is only one of the challenges that awaits Chan.

In an editorial, the medical journal Lancet says Chan is also faced with the challenge of ensuring proper financing of WHO. Proper financing, according to the Lancet, is crucial if Chan is to smooth out standing issues within the organization, such as a largely lackluster leadership team and a lack of “a sharper message, a stronger articulation of what WHO is for in the 21st century.”

Chan’s reappointment, the Lancet says, “comes at a perilous moment for WHO.” The organization, it adds, is in crisis and needs rescue. But the Lancet notes WHO’s current state should not deter attention away from Chan’s notable accomplishments since taking office in 2007.

Under Chan’s watch, the WHO led the U.N. secretary-general’s global strategy on women’s and children’s health and adopted a political declaration putting noncommunicable diseases on the global agenda, the Lancet notes. The medical journal adds Chan deserves points for completing the Commission on Social Determinants of Health project started by her predecessor Lee Jong-wook, who did not finish his term due to his untimely death in 2006.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.