|Press Release WHA/9
20 May 1999
STRUCTURAL, POLICY CHANGES
"Structural and policy changes effected in WHO by its Director General in the past year have positioned the Organization to better perform its role as the world's premier health agency," Jonas Store, Executive Director and Senior Policy Adviser, told delegates at a special briefing of the World Health Assembly in Geneva today.
The 191-member Assembly, which is WHO's governing body, ends its annual session on 25 May.
Among the changes introduced by Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland since assuming office as Director General on 21 July 1998 are the reduction of 50 existing programmes to 35 departments grouped into nine clusters, a cabinet-based decision making process and a policy of staff mobility and rotation.
The number of director-level posts has also been brought down from 45 to 37. Dr. Brundtland has initiated three high-profile cabinet projects (Roll Back Malaria, Tobacco Free Initiative, and Partnerships for Health Sector Development), introduced an ambitious policy on gender balance, and decentralized administrative and management functions.
Mr. Store explained that the movement of management support closer to technical action was done through the establishment of Management Support Units which has not increased costs.
Changes at headquarters have also been reflected at the Regional and Country levels of WHO. As examples, Mr. Store cited reforms in the Regional Offices to harmonise programmes with headquarters clusters, and the review of the managerial authority of WHO Country Offices to fit their specific responsibilities.
Prior to the introduction of these changes, Mr. Store said, WHO was perceived as a fragmented agency with weak senior management and vague priority-setting.
"Now WHO has regained respect; it is no longer seen as being isolated, and it is forging new and stronger relationships with other UN organizations. It is also forging links with regional organizations such as the European Union and the Organization of African Unity, and multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund."
In response to a question, Mr. Store described decision-making in cabinet as an innovative, collective style of management within WHO that encourages teamwork.
Referring to the three high-profile projects on malaria, tobacco and health sector development, Mr. Store said: "Typically a cabinet project would involve staff from different departments and with different backgrounds working together with external partners to increase efficiency, reduce costs and cut duplication."
He also spoke of the evolution in WHO of a new corporate strategy whose rationale is "to define WHO's role and contribution in relation to the broader world health agenda, provide the basis for corporate decision-making across the organisation, explain how WHO does its business and distinguish between the achievements of the Secretariat and those of Member States."
Organization-wide consultation has already begun on the new corporate strategy which will be presented to the WHO Executive Board in January 2000, Mr Store added.
For further information, journalists can contact Samuel T. Ajibola, Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 917 6873. Fax (41 22) 791 4858. Email: email@example.com.
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