This week more than 260 of WHO’s leaders from headquarters, regional and country offices gathered in Geneva to discuss how to transform WHO into an organization that is better able to deliver meaningful improvements in health to the world’s people.
It was first time that WHO’s new Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with all senior leadership in the same room.
They gathered for the ninth bi-annual Global Meeting of heads of WHO country offices, which drove an agenda to return WHO’s focus to strengthen its work at country level.
Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General, after delivering his speech at the Town Hall meeting
“This was an unprecedented opportunity to have leadership from all levels, including the most recent senior leaders to join the WHO team, together at one time to chart the future course of our work in countries throughout the world,” said Shambhu Acharya, WHO’s Director of Country Cooperation and Coordination with the United Nations System. “There was a real spirit of energy and appetite for change, you could feel it in in the discussions and working groups throughout the three days.”
The meeting also included contributions from key partners, including the United Nations Development Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, GAVI and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who all expressed their renewed commitment to working with WHO to tackle global health challenges.
Director-General Dr Tedros introduced the new senior leadership team, highlighted achievements from his first 120 days in office, and outlined the next steps to gather input from WHO’s country representatives on the draft thirteenth General Programme of Work, and the draft Transformation Plan and Architecture that will guide organizational change over the next years.
Throughout the meeting leaders from headquarters, regional and country offices discussed the specific challenges and solutions to WHOs work at country level. They debated what it will take to deliver on the proposed priorities and direction of the Organization’s work for the next five years.
Dr B. Schwartlander, Chef de Cabinet, moderating discussions during the 9th Global Meeting
“I know one thing that impacted and impressed Heads of Country was that Dr Tedros was there throughout the entire meeting. He didn’t just drop in and out at the beginning and end,” said Dr Piedad Huerta, WHO Representative in Honduras. “We had a variety of positions and opinions, regardless of what they were, he was listening.”
On behalf of the leaders from headquarters, regional and country offices, Dr Maureen Birmingham, WHO Representative in Argentina and Dr Ibrahim El-Ziq, WHO Representative in Saudi Arabia, presented a summary of the key outcomes from the meeting.
“We welcome the vision and strategic priorities and believe that the draft 13th General Programme of Work is aspirational, ambitious, sharp, inspirational and exciting,” said Dr EL-ZIQ. “It captures current issues in the wider health landscape and brings real strategic shifts with impacts and countries at the centre.”
On the Transformation agenda Maureen Birmingham noted that the goal is an Organization that is “flexible, nimble, timely, responsive and proactive.”
Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General, with the winners of the WHO Rewards for Excellence 2016
“As Heads of Country we embrace the agreed same goal, that of country-level impact as a priority,” she said. “We need to capture what is already working. We have rich experience and knowledge from regional reform processes, good practice and efficiencies. It’s imperative that we don’t throw everything out.”
The 9th Global Meeting culminated in a global all-staff meeting.
Director-General, Dr Tedros acknowledged with great sadness the death of Dr Mahmoud Fikri, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. All staff around the world observed a moment of silence in memory of Dr Fikri.
Dr Tedros summarized achievements from the first 120 days since he took office on 3 July, outlined the vision and top priorities put forward in the draft 13th General Programme of Work, and also introduced the draft Transformation Plan and Architecture that had been unveiled earlier in the day.
The Director-General presented WHO Rewards for Excellence to staff, personally congratulating the more than 20 recipients of the rewards in the various categories.
Dr Tedros reiterated that staff are the Organization’s greatest asset and thanked them for their contributions.
“I am proud of everything we have accomplished together in the past four months. And I am excited about everything we can achieve together in the months and years ahead,” said Dr Tedros. “One thing that is clear to me is that you are all proud to work for WHO. So am I. We have a unique mission. I am more determined than ever to work with you all to harness the extraordinary potential of this organization to make meaningful change in our world. Please join me on that mission.”