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Editorial by WHO's Director-General Dr Margaret Chan
20 November 2012

When I initiated the reform of WHO in early 2011, I envisioned an organization that was ‘fit for purpose’, able to respond rapidly and effectively to the public health challenges of today, and those we will face in the future.

Member States welcomed this initiative and have guided the process, reaching consensus on many areas of reform, and giving direction as we go forward. In the end, what we all want to see are changes that improve the performance of WHO, at a time of exceptionally complex health challenges, in an era of nearly global austerity.

That means a more strategic engagement of WHO’s talented staff and use of resources, and greater efficiency in their management. That means a more structured and focused approach to priority setting. That means a clear understanding of health needs that WHO is best-positioned to address. That means discipline among Member States in their expectations of what WHO can do. All of this ultimately means a programme of work with an impact on health outcomes that can be measured, which is adequately and appropriately financed, and for which WHO can be readily held accountable.

"All of this ultimately means a programme of work with an impact on health outcomes that can be measured, which is adequately and appropriately financed, and for which WHO can be readily held accountable."

WHO's Director-General Dr Margaret Chan

We have made some progress, as described in this newsletter. From the outset, Member States recognized that some reforms could be introduced quickly while others would take more time. I have proceeded with some managerial reforms which fall within my responsibility.

The Organization has downsized. Graphs in this newsletter indicate the savings incurred through reformed staffing and travel policies, though exchange rate fluctuations remain a serious problem. We have found ways to shed some layers of bureaucracy and move faster. For example, the recruitment of staff to head our country offices has been streamlined, drastically reducing the time needed to fill vacant posts, with no sacrifice of standards for recruitment. A similar approach is planned for the recruitment of other categories of staff, including epidemiologists and technical officers.

Reformed procedures for priority setting at WHO are an important and urgent subject. Member States have endorsed a limited set of criteria and categories of work as a way of rationalizing the priority-setting process and making it more transparent. This groundwork facilitates much of the difficult work that lies ahead, as will be initially addressed by the PBAC meeting in December.

Together, we are tackling an ambitious and comprehensive agenda for reform. I look forward to your guidance as we take the next bold steps.

Comment

WHO reform secretariat welcomes comments on the issues discussed in this and other articles in the Change@WHO newsletter.

Please note that all comments submitted are subject to review by WHO before posting on the website. WHO is not responsible for the different views expressed. WHO reserves the right not to post comments that are deemed inappropriate.

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