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Opinion Pieces Address WHO DG Tedros’s Appointment, Withdrawal Of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe As Goodwill Ambassador

The Herald: WHO and what it means to be Robert Mugabe
Isdore Guvamombe, political and features writer at The Herald

“…This week, the discourse was on President Mugabe being awarded an ambassadorial role for the United Nations World Health Organization and its subsequent withdrawal. … There is no doubt from my village standpoint that the Ethiopian director had, in his rightful senses, always revered President Mugabe, the last standing liberation icon who has done a lot for African people. Our story as Zimbabweans in our broad totality should question U.N. systems and, in fact, see reason in the need for the much-needed and much-delayed U.N. reforms. What happened in WHO is even a more glaring insight on how U.N. systems have been and continue to be manipulated by Western European powers. … To be Robert Mugabe is to be the spokesperson of the downtrodden. So, to be Robert Mugabe means to be under the Western Europe microscope all the time. It is indeed to be identified as a champion of things that make Africans better at the expense of Western Europeans. It is, therefore, to be dangerous to European supremacy” (10/27).

The Lancet: Offline: Dr. Tedros, Robert Mugabe, and WHO
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet

“…Effective leadership means being prepared to change one’s mind. Dr. Tedros, WHO’s director general, did change his mind. Out of this short-lived but intense crisis, WHO can emerge stronger. That said, it’s important that lessons are learned. … By anointing President Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, WHO gave the impression that it was endorsing a violent dictator, an endorsement that Zimbabwe’s government gleefully welcomed. President Mugabe’s regime has presided over the slow asphyxiation of the country’s health system. … Dr. Tedros may not have liked all he read about his appointment of President Mugabe, but he was better served by sharp critics than by overprotective guardians. … To succeed, Dr. Tedros and his team must think strategically and consult widely. And, as he showed better than those who reflexly justified the unjustifiable, he should never fear public criticism. Robust dialogue and exchange are good for global health” (10/28).

Health Affairs: World Health Organization’s Robert Mugabe Debacle: A Hopeful Sign After A Hapless Decision
Ashish K. Jha, K.T. Li professor of international health in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute

“…While the appointment of Mugabe was undoubtedly a grievous error, the rescinding of the offer shows an agency possibly on the mend after its catastrophic performance managing Ebola. … And the first 100 days under Tedros’s leadership have been good ones. … Those of us who desperately want WHO to succeed have had our hopes revived — which is why the appointment of Mugabe was so crushing. … To demonstrate its commitment to global public health, as I have outlined before, WHO needs to show it is committed to reform, including transparency and accountability. It needs to engage with civil society organizations — such as non-government organizations and others on the front lines of public health. And finally, it needs to stand up to national governments when that is necessary to remind us it is accountable beyond its member states for promoting public health. We need WHO to be the globe’s public health agency. Early on a Sunday in October, it took a small but important step to becoming exactly that” (10/26).

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