Julio Frenk should be the front-runner in elections for Director-General of the WHO

Based on his experience, skills, and vision for WHO, Julio Frenk must surely be the objective front-runner in the elections for a new Director-General of the organisation, states Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, in a Comment in this week's issue.

This week The Lancet opens a debate between the 13 candidates running for Director-General of WHO about their vision for the world's most important health agency. This issue's World Report features responses from the nominees to questions about the role of WHO, their first 100 days in office, what WHO should not do, the agency's independence, the health of citizens as opposed to the needs of governments, and the increasing politicisation of global health.

In his Comment, Horton assesses the different manifestos, the candidate's signature issues, along with their skills, experience, and vision for WHO. He states that the Executive Board of WHO must be sure that candidates have the technical competence and administrative skills for the job before they evaluate their competing visions. The next Director-General of WHO should be selected on merit - and merit alone, says Horton.

On these grounds, Horton believes that only five candidates have the technical expertise for the role Frenk (Mexico), Karam Karam (Lebanon), Pascoal Mocumbi (Mozambique), Shigeru Omi (Japan), and Pekka Puska (Finland) -and five the administrative skills Margaret Chan (China), Frenk, David Gunnarsson (Iceland), Bernard Kouchner (France), and Alfredo Palacio (Ecuador).

In terms of visions for the future of WHO, Horton states that only three candidates Frenk, Kouchner, Puska - can meet the challenges of revitalising WHO's mandate as a global public-health agency.

Dr Horton concludes: "The Executive Board of WHO has emphasised (EB 97. R10) that the Director-General should have "a strong technical and public health background and extensive experience in international health", "competency in organisational management", and "proven historical evidence for public health leader--ship". By these criteria, and by the technical, administrative, and programmatic measures set out above, the selection of WHO's next Director-General is not as difficult as it might at first have seemed. Julio Frenk must surely be the objective front-runner for Director-General of WHO."

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