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new who

By Jeremiah Norris - February 19, 2007 12:00 AM

Why ... in so shallow a cup!

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to select a successor to Dr. J. W. Lee for the post of Director General. During the period November 6-8, thirty-four countries on the Executive Board will meet to short list candidates for presentations and interviews. On November 9, one candidate selected by a simple majority vote will be presented to a full meeting of the World Health Assembly for approval.

The Chairman of the Executive Board, Mr. Fernando Antezana Aranibar, a Bolivian national, is a past Deputy Director General of WHO. Among his duties, he served as the Director of its Drug Action Programme, created to ensure an orderly flow of essential medicines to developing nations. Part of his responsibilities was to direct WHO's efforts on reducing the flow of counterfeit drugs into these countries.

As Chairman, Mr. Antezana is charged with driving the selection process for the new Director General, a highly responsible position. While he was in an active appointment as a Deputy Director General of WHO, Mr. Antezana appeared on the CBS television show "60 Minutes" in January 1998. The interviewer, Mike Wallace, exposed Mr. Antezana's credentials as fraudulent. His resume stated that he had a doctorate from a Bolivian university, and diplomas in public health and international relations from Harvard and Stanford universities.

In fact, he had none of these credentials.

According to a subsequent article in the British Medical Journal, "Mr. Antezana did not deny these allegations when confronted on camera but defended himself by saying that it is customary in Bolivia to refer to all professionals as doctors."

This is true—up to a point. While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mountains of Colombia, much to the delight of fellow villagers, I named my mule 'doctor'.

His case says more about WHO's hiring practices than it does about Mr. Antezana. Following his exposure on "60 Minutes", the BMJ article went onto comment that Mr. Antezana stepped down from his candidacy in the then-ongoing race to select a new Director General. He threw his support to another aspirant, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a highly competent candidate. She was duly elected and re-appointed Mr. Antezana as a 'special advisor' to her Office, proving once again that there are second acts in theater.

Mr. Antezana now holds in his impaired hands the possibility of greatly influencing the deciding vote for a new Director General. With that, all possibilities for change and reform within WHO will be determined.

The fundamental values of WHO are reliably expressed in the criteria by which it selects senior staff, a Chairman for the Executive Board, and the new Director General. The consequences are borne by the poor in the developing world who need not forge their credentials to establish status.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, it is inexplicable why WHO has chosen to drown its hard-earned principled values "in so shallow a cup."


Jeremiah Norris


Center for Science in Public Policy

Hudson Institute

Washington, D. C.


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