A note for the next WHO Director-General

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to have a new leader elected in May and take office in July, these past months different actors have engaged, first the six candidates, and now the three remaining candidates, in debates and discussions over various issues in global development and international health, as well as their plans for the future of the WHO.

I have been thinking about what should be my expectations of the next WHO Director-General, as a young health professional, passionate about global health, with a keen interest to be a leader in shaping health policies and building health systems. I will allow myself to also write on behalf of other healthcare students or young health professionals with whom I share my passion and interests.

The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federations that I lead is one of the only two organizations that represent young people -students and recent graduates- with official relations with the World Health Organization, the other being the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA). With our unique perspective on global health challenges, we form a particular group of non-state actors engaging with WHO.

Although we are invited every year to attend the WHO Executive Board Meeting and the World Health Assembly, We rarely receive invites for high level or technical meetings or call to provide inputs on specific initiatives’ development. Our involvement is limited to statements, that are often not considered as part of decisions making processes and we are usually disdained for partnerships and pushed down on speaking lists.

However, Together with IFMSA, we represent over 2 million of the future health workforce and leaders in global health, research, private sector acting in health. This affirms my belief in the need for a greater youth engagement in decision-making for health and ensures our opinion is equally considered as ones of experts.

There are leaders within the WHO who share this belief, demur against the existing state of affairs and reach out to us to partake in the work of certain departments. I henceforth expect the next WHO Director-General to emulate this approach which has allowed to us to comprehend, experience and increase our knowledge and capacities in certain areas. This also allows us to provide a very unique youth-focused perspective that no other actors in official relations with WHO could provide.

Our Generation of students and young professionals is living unprecedented changes in Global Health, we understand more than any other generation the need to change the narrative and transform healthcare. The state of the world has advanced to equip our generation with the capacity to drive the needed reforms if we are given a chance to play a part as actors and not always as beneficiaries. I hope for the next WHO Director-General to implement reforms in goal-directed efforts to sufficiently increase the role of organizations such as IPSF and IFMSA in decision-making processes at all levels of the WHO.

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