Director-General's Office

Opening speech at the 143rd Session of the Executive Board

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

28 May 2018

Thank you Chair, thank you my sister Ambassador Lelé.

Let me start by congratulating you on your election. I very much look forward to working with you and with all the members of this board in this very exciting stage of WHO’s journey. Obrigado.

I’d also like to thank Dr Hafeez for his work as Chair. He has played a critical role at a critical time. Thank you, Dr Hafeez.

I’d like to begin by reading an email I received yesterday from Dr Mike Ryan, our Assistant Director-General for Emergencies. He’s currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo responding to the Ebola outbreak, and he sent me this message from Mbandaka, where they have been doing the vaccination and he’s been coordinating that. If you like, he’s our general on the ground. I quote:

Operation on the ground getting much stronger. Four main areas of operation are Mbandaka, Bikoro, Iboko and Itipo. We have surged more people into Iboko over the last two days with Monusco establishing a camp. Full scale staffing will be on the ground on Monday, with vaccination to begin Wednesday by WHO. We have almost finished vaccination in Mbandaka. Very positive community response. Spent the day out with the vaccination teams in the community yesterday. For the first time in my experience I saw hope in the face of Ebola and not terror.

End of quote.

This last line moved me. In a way, that is what WHO is all about: hope, not terror. That’s why in our mission we included “keeping the world safe”.

That’s also what our new General Programme of Work is all about.

It’s about giving hope to those who cannot access the care they need.

It’s about giving hope to those who cannot afford the care they need.

It’s about giving hope to the vulnerable that they can lead a healthy life.

The approval of the GPW by the World Health Assembly last week marked a major milestone for WHO.

And it was also a major achievement for this Executive Board.

From start to finish, your support has been invaluable. We simply could not have done it without your ideas and your commitment, and the commitment of the whole WHO.

I’m very proud of what we have achieved together, and very grateful for your support. Thank you.

We now have a clear plan, with clear targets.

Now the real work starts. For the moment, all we have is a document. Now is the time to work on implementing it.

And for that too we will need your support.

The GPW gives us several new challenges. But I want to assure you that even as we embark on a new programme of work, we will not lose focus on the critical goal of polio eradication.

We’re so close now. We will not take our eye off the ball. We will finish the job together.

I’m committed to a smooth polio transition period to ensure that we continue to benefit from the massive investments all partners have made in a post-polio world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of my major priorities now is to focus on our transformation plan, to ensure that WHO is an organization that is capable of delivering on the GPW.

To implement the new GPW and fulfil our mission and mandate, we must change to operate as one WHO. Many of our administrative processes and ways of working are outdated and hold us back.

As you know, I have been meeting on a regular basis with the Regional Directors and Deputy Directors-General to ensure that we are working in a coordinated way. We have agreed on the transformation plan, and we are now starting to implement it in several ways:

We’re working to enhance our operating model, to put country impact at the centre. We’re clarifying roles and responsibilities, ensuring the right people with the right skills are in the right places, and strengthening joint management;

We’re establishing fit-for-purpose processes and tools, to enable staff to do their best by scaling up best practices and designing new administrative and management tools where necessary;

And we’re transforming the resourcing of our work to establish a sustainable future for WHO, with a new external engagement model.

We’re now developing an investment case to illustrate what a fully-financed WHO could achieve, from passive to proactive resource mobilisation;

We’re looking to expand our donor base to make us more resilient against financial shocks;

And as I said last week, we are preparing to establish a WHO Foundation, which will allow us to generate funds from new sources, such as the general public.

I particularly want to thank those Member States that have already committed to supporting us with flexible funds. We’re confident that more countries will follow suit.

As we undertake our own transformation efforts, we’re also engaging with the UN Reform process. I’m involved personally at the Principals level, but it will also be vital that that we engage in this process at the regional and country level to make sure we realise the benefits.

Of course, as a specialist agency and a Member State organization, there are some challenges to be negotiated and we will ensure that both the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly are kept fully informed and involved.

Part of transforming WHO to be more effective is reforming our governance structures.

Thank you for the work you have already done and the proposals you have made. I hope that we will be able to make progress on some of them. We look forward to your continued leadership on this issue.

One idea we are proposing is to organize a joint trip for the Executive Board to some selected countries, to see first-hand the impact of WHO’s work. I welcome your input on that proposal. The proposal is for some of the board members with the secretariat to visit DRC, which is where we should be.

Finally, this will be the last Executive Board meeting for my brother Dr Shin, Regional Director for WPRO. I want to thank him for his remarkable service. Whoever succeeds him will have a very tough act to follow. Big shoes to fill.

I want to thank Dr Shin for his wisdom, his advice and his friendship. My brother, I wish you well for the remaining months of your leadership, and I wish you every success in the next stage of your life and career.

Thank you very much.