Opinion Pieces Discuss Potential Implications Of WHO Goodwill Ambassador Misstep
The Conversation: Robert Mugabe as WHO goodwill ambassador — what went wrong?
Luke Allen, researcher for global health policy at the University of Oxford
“…Following international uproar, the [appointment of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe as WHO goodwill ambassador on non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] was rescinded — but the debacle showed both misguided good intention and the importance of internal communication. … A few good things have come out of the debacle. The international uproar has applied fresh diplomatic pressure on Mugabe and served to highlight the plight of his people. The episode also put non-communicable diseases into headlines … The swift cancellation of the accolade [by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] was also a victory for civil society, and a rare example of a leader who is willing to listen and change their mind when wrong. The unforced clanger has badly tarnished the WHO’s reputation, undermined its credibility, and raised serious questions about the new director’s judgement. … Violence, political oppression, and corruption are anathema to the founding principles of the WHO: promoting the highest standards of mental, physical, and social well-being for all” (10/24).
CNN: Robert Mugabe appointment may haunt the World Health Organization for years
Michael Bociurkiw, global affairs analyst
“…The announcement [of the appointment of Robert Mugabe as WHO goodwill ambassador] … quickly morphed into one of WHO’s worst public relations disasters. As president, Mugabe has decimated Zimbabwe’s health care system and has seen life-expectancy rates fall in his country. … Fortunately, the decision was rescinded … While the statement was more of an about-face than an apology, the controversy — which is still smoldering — has the potential to inflict long-term damage to WHO, which has set the gold standard in global public health. … WHO has a well-earned reputation for being no-nonsense and for tackling some of the world’s most serious and stubborn disease outbreaks. But the Mugabe decision was out of character for WHO and should have never been made in the first place” (10/24).