The Global Fund's shortlist, Kenya's fraught elections, and Tedros' miscalculation: This week in development

A view of the ministerial-level pledging conference for the Rohingya refugee crisis held at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by: Violaine Martin / U.N.

Donors pledge millions for Myanmar’s Rohingya, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria takes another shot at finding a new chief, and Dr. Tedros reconsiders a contentious appointment. This week in development.

A second attempt to hold Kenya’s presidential election appears unlikely to reduce tensions in the country or to produce a publicly accepted result. When Kenyans went to the polls two months ago, voting lines stretched out the doors of polling stations. As the country holds a court-mandated rerun vote on Thursday — after the previous election results were annulled because of irregularities — far fewer Kenyans seem to be casting their ballots, Devex correspondent Sara Jerving reported from Nairobi. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga withdrew his name from contention, arguing that this rerun election held little promise to be better than the first. Civil society groups had likewise called for the election to be delayed further, until additional measures could be taken to ensure its integrity. Humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and Mercy Corps long anticipated that these elections might create instability, and developed response plans in advance to avoid an outcome like the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007. They have now mobilized and activated those plans, which are largely aimed at helping reduce incidences of violence between political parties, protesters, and police.

In its second attempt to find a new leader, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria released a list of finalists in the running to be the organization’s next executive director. The Global Fund’s board suspended a previous selection attempt after concerns surfaced about the recruitment process they had undertaken, and after one of the finalists withdrew her name from contention. The board’s new list includes four names: Simon Bland, the current director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS office in New York; Frannie Leautier, formerly a senior vice president at the African Development Bank; Peter Sands, a senior fellow at Harvard and former chief executive of Standard Chartered PLC; and Anil Soni, head of global infectious diseases at Mylan and former chief executive of the Clinton Health Access Initiative. “At a time when political dynamics are in flux in many countries, it is essential we select a leader who can persuade decision-makers that investing in global health is critically important for global security,” Aida Kurtovic and John Simon, chair and vice-chair of the Global Fund Board, wrote in a statement to Devex.

Governments and donor organizations pledged about $200 million in assistance to Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, who have fled the country in the fastest exodus since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Following the Geneva pledging conference, pledges made since the conflict began on August 25 now total about $344 million, a number still roughly $100 million short of the U.N.’s projected need for the next six months. Since that $344 million will be spread among a number of different organizations, the U.N.-specific target is still far from being reached, Devex’s Kelli Rogers reported. Since late August, more than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine state and crossed the border into Bangladesh, placing immense pressure on refugee camps and assistance efforts there. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi encouraged donors to “realize their pledges” as soon as possible and thanked Bangladesh for maintaining open borders as the influx of refugees has intensified, Rogers reporte.

The head of the U.K. Department for International Development Priti Patel backed off from previous threats to leave the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee if they do not agree to rule changes about how official development assistance can be spent. Patel had previously suggested she would seek rule changes related to using ODA on military and security-related costs at the DAC, which holds its high-level meeting at the end of October. The DFID chief warned that if rule changes did not occur, she might be compelled to pull the U.K. out of the OECD rule-setting body. On Tuesday she softened her stance. “I don’t think it will come to that [leaving DAC], and I just want to emphasize to the committee as well that we are great supporters of the rules-based system,” Patel said at an evidence session in the House of Lords.

In what many have seen as a rare, early political miscalculation, new World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus bestowed — then revoked — the position of goodwill ambassador from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe late last week. Tedros’ effort to enlist African national leaders in the cause of global health backfired in the face of intense criticism from other health leaders and detractors on social media. Tedros announced the appointment at a WHO Global Conference on Noncommunicable Diseases in Uruguay on Wednesday. “Today I am also honoured to announce that President Mugabe has agreed to serve as a goodwill ambassador on NCDs for Africa to influence his peers in his region to prioritize NCDs,” he said of a president who has been widely accused of stifling political opposition and human rights abuses. On Sunday, Tedros rescinded the appointment. “I remain firmly committed to working with all countries and their leaders to ensure that everyone has access to the health care they need,” he said when he announced the reversal.

Update, October 27, 2017: This article has been updated to clarify that Ms. Leautier is no longer an AfDB official.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.