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Is there unholy alliance between former UK minister & Bill Gates, targeting WHO director-general’s election?

by Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The former UK secretary of the Department for International Development (DFID) Andrew Mitchell’s article in The Guardian (April 27, 2017) is rather troubling.

Through its sophisticated expediency, seemingly reliant on questionable Great Powers’ history of collusions and intrigues, the article exudes the interests of a few wanting to continue the same today. It reveals an underhanded effort aiming to ‘determine’ – influence is weaker here – outcome of the May 2017 election of the ninth director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In there, one garners the sense that Messrs Bill Gates and Andrew Mitchell may have teamed up possibly their minds already made up, if they could, to get the 194 members with voting rights at the forthcoming 70th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) to go along with their choice during the third week of May 2017.


‘Gentleman’s Agreement’

Equally intriguing is the former UK minister (2010-2012) seeking to boost candidacy of my fellow countryman Dr. Tedros Adhanom to get the top post to the detriment of his countryman – the widely experienced Dr. David Nabarro, a household name in the United Nations and within WHO. Equally curious is the admission by Mr. Mitchell that Dr. Nabarro enjoys the full support of the UK’s health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who, unlike developing nations’ officials, could be assumed to have that same information.


To my mind, Mr. Mitchell has disappointingly chosen to inform the international community that the UK candidate must pack up and go under the terms of that obscure Great Powers’ ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’, known to him alone and allegedly prohibiting any national of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council from becoming WHO director-general.

Troubling for me here is Mr. Mitchell’s inability/unwillingness to cite or directly quote from his source of this interesting information. To the best of my understanding, neither the WHO leadership nor its legal counsel have corroborated this late arriving claim. In fact, on the contrary, in a WHO official Note (EB140/INF./1), dated 21 November 2016, the Legal Counsel circulated the procedures for the nomination of candidates, describing the role of the 34-member Executive Board, regarding the initial screening of the candidates and the short list readied for the WHA action.

In Annex 7, A, Paragraph I. on the General requirements, (above), it is indicated that the legitimacy of the electoral processes would be guided by the following principles: (i) due regard to the principle of equitable geographical representation, (ii) fairness, (iii) equity,
(iv) transparency, (v) good faith, (vi) dignity, (vii) mutual respect and moderation, (viii) non-discrimination, and (ix) merit.

Nowhere in the above-referenced document by the Legal Counsel is any mentioning of what Mr. Andrew Mitchell has injected to get his way and pick the candidate of his choice, possibly wanting to do favor or return favor to Mr. Gates at the expense of WHO and risks to global health aspirations.

Another evidence against the position of the UK minisrer is Director-General Margaret Chan compliance with the established procedures and transmitting the list of six candidates in September 2016. Included in there are two candidates from two permanent members of the Security Council – France’s Philippe Douste-Blazy and the United Kingdom’s David Nabarro.

In January 2017, the Executive Board at its 140th session, in compliance with Article 31 of the WHO constitution, nominated three candidates; also this has been transmitted to the World Health Assembly for its final election of one candidate later next month. Still Dr. Nabarro remains a viable candidate.


United Nations specialized agencies

Surely, what Mr. Mitchell is referring to has been very much evident as for top posts within the United Nations Secretariat, such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and his under-secretaries-general. To the best of my recollection, this is inapplicable to WHO. That’s why I consider wrong the basis on which the minister had posited his conclusion regarding the forthcoming WHO election.

Briefly put, the fact that no WHO director-general has come so far from permanent members of the Security Council does not make this a rule, or unalterable in future.

I am not aware of such understanding, and I am ready to be corrected, if any; but no such a thing exists; nor every obscure talk among the powers to be from sixty or seventy years ago an operating procedure in the specialized agencies of the United Nations system today – not even in those earliest ones dating from the the League of Nations or the earlier ones that were established in the post-war world, the list of which includes: ITU, UPU, ILO, FAO, WHO, UNESCO & ICAO.

If we are guided by the tangible reality, I would remind the DFID former secretary that one of the premier and oldest specialized agencies of the United Nations system is the International Labor Organization (ILO). It had as its directors-general David A. Morse (1948-1970) from the United States, as also Francis Blanchard 1974-1989 from France and the UK’s Clarence Wilfred Jenks, who run the organization from 1970-1973.

In the case of UNESCO, the United Kingdom (Julian Huxley, 1946-1948) and the United States (John W. Taylor, 1952-195) had served as directors-general.

Similarly, the Food and Agriculture Organization was run twice by two US citizens (Philip Cardon, 1954-1956; Norris Dodd, 1948-1953), and the United Kingdom’s Sir Herbert Bradley (1956-19569 and John Boyd Orr (1945-1948). Interestingly, even their deputies between 1948 and 1997 were US and UK citizens.

For sure, WHO never had a national of any of the permanent members of the Security Council as its director-general. This is not a matter of prohibitions; I presume a matter of interests and practices of states.


Unholy alliance

As stated above, visible in The Guardian article is the unholy alliance between Andrew Mitchell and Bill Gates. That is why I read with great disappointment and surprise his naked solicitation of support on behalf of Dr. Tedros Adhanom.

In the circumstances, suffice it to state that Mr. Bill Gates ‘philanthropic work’ on behalf of mothers and children and the future of his involvement in research and production of vaccines may have required Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s WHO director-generalship.

Nonetheless, even if we leave aside the institutional and political requirements for the WHO post, if the former minister has been paying attention, Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s candidacy since day one has faced the fury and stiffest opposition of a large number of Ethiopian professionals across the world – including medical specialists across the profession’s spectrum – as well as some international experts on two grounds.

These relate to Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s:

(a) lack of adequate qualification for a post that requires the education and training of a physician. Since 1947, WHO has been led by medical doctors, eight of them in succession. Instead of smugness, should we not assume there is such vital need filled by this, given primacy of WHO’s mandate; and,

(b) inadequacy on grounds of integrity pertaining to his anti-human rights stance, which have put him into conflict with the UN Charter and WHO Constitution and its nine principles. This mainly speaks to Dr Tedros Adhanom’s career being drenched with his ethnic politics and the penchant to play fast and loose with facts, reason and the truth he has been suffering from.

A case in point is, while foreign minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom assigned blame and responsibility for the over a year-long widespread anti-TPLF regime Ethiopian protests and the subsequent political crisis, including the martial law that has been suffocating the nation to Human Rights Watch!

Dr. Tedros Adhanom claimed “HRW through its senior researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea, Felix Horne, was stoking anti-government protests through its false and negative reportage of the situation in the country” is a terrible lie.

Ethiopians know full well the skills and ethical problems Dr. Tedros faces. That is why they believe he must assume responsibility for his habitual lies that could endanger WHO’s march to its goal of attaining the objectives in its nine principles.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom in mind, at the beginning of this year I penned my No to Dr. Tedros Adhanom as net WHO director-general (Part I) article. In it I argue that everything possible must be done to preserve WHO’s exclusive mandate that Mr. Gates may be keen on taking over the vital ones:

“As stated in Article 2 of the WHO constitution, one of the main functions of the organization is to act as “directing and coordinating authority on international health work.” Nonetheless, because of the huge monies involved in research and medicines, the pressure to weaken the organization is manifold. Withstanding this requires strong and principled leadership that derives its satisfaction from a job well done and service to humanity, not a TPLF propagandist.”

On May 12, 2016, The Washington Post also had put its finger on present day WHO problems, as follows:

“The WHO’s influence has been declining for some time. New actors and sources of finance such as the Gates Foundation have created a more diffuse global health landscape. Spending on global health increased dramatically since 2000, but much of the funds were channeled through new entities such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — not the WHO.”

Along the same line, Stewart M. Patrick on the Council on Foreign Relations blog writes:

“…[T]he sources of its legitimacy are limited by a funding structure that has skewed toward two dominant governments (the United States and the United Kingdom) and the Gates Foundation. And even if its process legitimacy remains high, its outcome legitimacy—the WHO’s ability to produce the outcomes desired by its members and other stakeholders in an efficient and timely fashion—is in question.”



Perhaps it is possible to be had a lesson or two from reiterating the appeal by Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (1953-1961). In the face of sovereign governments taking harder positions that constrained his role and freedom to take timely action as secretary-general, he was quoted jokingly likening himself to a ‘secular Pope…for much of the time without a church.” (Brian Urquhart’s Hammarskjold, 1972).

This was said, according to Hammarskjold, to highlight the difficulty of dealing with an international organization, within which member states act and behave differently from the commitments they have undertaken through the Charter. He saw himself, as he put it, as “an embodiment of the hopes of mankind for international peace and justice.”

Under WHO Constitution, while a qualified and ethical director-general could claim the same as Mr. Hammarskjold, it is extremely unlikely to expect this from Dr. Tedros Tedros Adhanom – once the health minister later foreign minister, who had taken stand of refusing exit visa for treatment abroad against TPLF torture-victim Habtamu Ayalew, supported by the nation’s medical board.

In like manner, it is in noticing the unbecoming behavior of some states that Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar (1982-1991) in his report On the Work of Organization for 1985 levelled his bitterest criticism.

I would like Mr. Andrew Mitchell to picture himself and the action he took now in the context of what the secretary-general was referring:

“It seems to me important to examine the concept of international authority, a concept which remains illusie in the present world. The only authority that existed in international affairs before the founding of the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, was the actual power of the strongest States or Empires. It was mainly the abuse of this power which led to two world wars in this century. It was to replace this state of affairs that the United Nations, President Roosevelt stated after the Crimean Conference, “spells – and it ought to spell – the end of the system of unilateral action, exclusive alliances, and spheres of influence, and balances of power, and all the other expedients which have been tried for centuries and have always failed.”

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