Tedros poised for re-election at WHO as support grows – diplomats

FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

September 23, 2021

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is poised to command wide support for a second term as head of the World Health Organisation, formally nominated by more than 12 European Union members and also backed by countries in other regions, diplomats said on Thursday.

Tedros, a former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia, elected as WHO’s first African director-general in May 2017, has led the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has steered the U.N. agency through attacks on its handling of the crisis, which was sparked by a new coronavirus that emerged in China in late 2019 and has killed 4.9 million.

While the Trump administration accused Tedros of being “China-centric”, charges he rejected, relations warmed with the Biden administration, especially after Tedros publicly said that further investigations were needed into the origins of the virus, including audits of China’s laboratories, diplomats said.

But he has been shunned by Ethiopia due to friction over the Tigray conflict, making it necessary for other countries to step into the breach and submit his name for a second five-year term.

“He is not unscathed, but broadly the international community feels it is really important to get behind him,” a senior diplomat from a non-EU country told Reuters.

German government sources made clear to Reuters in Berlin on Wednesday that it would officially nominate Tedros and was seeking support from other EU member states.

A “substantial” number of EU states have said they would also submit his name for nomination, a Western diplomat said, citing more than a dozen so far. “I understand he is being nominated by other regions,” he added.

African countries broadly support Tedros who has championed their access to vaccines, but have not wanted to break ranks with Ethiopia, diplomats said.

The United States has not opposed his fresh term, they add.

The deadline for proposing candidates in the politically- charged race is 1600 GMT, and no other candidate for the election in May is known to have emerged, diplomats said.

However, under the WHO process, envelopes are to remain sealed until after Oct. 29, meaning it cannot be ruled out that a country might nominate another candidate. This is designed to limit campaigning too early.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by William Maclean)

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