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World Health Organization Director-General selection: frequently asked questions

Why is there a need to elect a new Director-General now?

Dr LEE Jong-wook, former Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), died suddenly on 22 May 2006, two years before the end of his five-year term. As a result, the WHO Executive Board decided to accelerate the process to elect a new Director-General.
See: Consideration of the acceleration of the procedure to elect the next Director-General [pdf 12kb]

Dr Anders Nordström (then WHO Assistant Director-General, General Management) was appointed as Acting Director-General by the Executive Board on 23 May 2006. Dr Nordström will continue to serve as Acting Director-General of WHO until a new Director-General takes office.
See: Acting Director-General Dr Anders Nordström

What is the process for electing a new Director-General?

Member States may propose candidates. These candidates are considered by the Executive Board (EB), which nominates one person by secret ballot. The name of that person is then submitted to the World Health Assembly, which makes the final appointment.

For this election, Member States were notified that they could propose candidates from 1 June 2006. Proposals were addressed under confidential cover to the Chairman of the Executive Board at WHO HQ, and were accepted until 5 September 2006.

On 6 September, the Chairman of the Executive Board opened the envelopes and advised Member States of the names of the candidates. The Secretariat translated the proposals and curricula vitae into the six official languages of WHO and dispatched them to all Member States by 5 October 2006.

The Executive Board will meet from 6 to 8 November 2006 in Geneva and will nominate a person for the post of Director-General.

On 9 November 2006, the World Health Assembly will meet in Geneva for a special session. The Assembly will consider the Board's nomination, and appoint a Director-General. The Assembly will also have to approve the contract for the new Director-General.

Who are the candidates?

The list of candidates can be seen here:
See: Candidates for the post of Director-General

Who are the Members of the current Executive Board?

The countries represented on the current EB are: Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Djibouti, El Salvador, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America.

Who is the Chairman of the Executive Board?

Dr Fernando Antezana Araníbar was elected Chairman of the Executive Board in May 2006, for one year. Dr Antezana is Senior Adviser in the Ministry of Health and Sports in Bolivia.

Is the Executive Board meeting from 6 - 8 November open to the public?

Some of the meeting will be public - for example, the opening and the closing, when the name of the person nominated for the post will be announced. However, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Board, the Board will conduct all proceedings related to the nomination in a session which is only open to Members of the Board and one representative for each Member State not represented on the Board. Source: EB Rule 7, WHO Basic Documents (2005 edition), p.155

Is the consideration by the World Health Assembly of the Board nomination open to the public?

As detailed in WHA Rule 110, WHO Basic Documents (2005 edition), p. 147, the World Health Assembly will consider the nomination at a private meeting and shall come to a decision through a secret ballot. The successful candidate will be announced at a public session of the World Health Assembly on that same day.

Who are the former Directors-General?

  • Dr Lee Jong-wook, Republic of Korea (2003- 2006)
  • Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway (1998-2003)
  • Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, Japan (1988-1998)
  • Dr Halfdan Mahler, Denmark (1973-1988)
  • Dr Marcolino Gomes Candau, Brazil (1953-1973)
  • Dr Brock Chisholm, Canada (1948-1953)

See: Former Directors-General