The Executive Board of WHO consists of 34 members, all of whom are technically qualified and hold the position for three years.
Dr Harsh Vardhan takes charge as WHO Executive Board Chairman! Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan took charge as the Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday at the 147th session of the board. The Indian minister took over the charge from Japan’s Dr Hiroki Nakatani.
The Executive Board of WHO consists of 34 members, all of whom are technically qualified and hold the position for three years, according to the WHO website. Dr Harsh Vardhan as the head of the governing body of the international nodal agency for public health will give India a chance to play a more prominent role in the global public health discourse. The Executive Board is tasked with the implementation of the decisions and policies taken by the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO. Apart from this, the board is also required to advise and generally facilitate the work of the Health Assembly, the WHO website states.
The website further states that an annual meeting of the Executive Board is organised in January, so that the members can agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions that the assembly would take under consideration. Once the Assembly is convened, a second meeting of the Board is called in May. This generally shorter meeting is a follow up to the Assembly.
This year, the Health Assembly was convened virtually on May 18 and 19, with the list of its resolutions shortened so that the discussion could be held within two days. Since the Assembly ended on May 19, the Board held a meeting on Friday for more administrative matters.
The post of Chairman of the Board is held by rotation by the six regional groups of the WHO – Africa, Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranian and Western Pacific regions – for a period of one year each, according to a report in the IE. The report further stated that the bloc had last year taken the unanimous decision of electing India’s nominee to the board for a term lasting three years.
Challenges for Harsh Vardhan as Executive Board Chairman?
The appointment of Dr Vardhan comes at a time when the world is facing a global health crisis. WHO has been spearheading the war against the COVID-19 pandemic at a global scale and the charge of implementation of policies to tackle the virus will be shared by Dr Vardhan now that he has assumed office.
While Dr Vardhan has adequate experience of dealing with the pandemic, considering the fact that he is leading India during its fight against coronavirus, the challenges at a global level could be much different and more severe.
Moreover, the appointment also comes when US President Donald Trump has been targeting the global health agency, accusing it of being biased towards China and not holding the latter responsible for the pandemic, which originated in Wuhan in December last year. At such a time, Dr Vardhan would have to ensure that the steps the agency takes are effective, while also re-affirming the credibility and the unbiased functioning of the WHO.