Tuesday March 26, 2019

WHO’s newly Elected Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stresses on Health as Human Right

Tedros promised to strengthen the frontlines of health, transform the World Health Organization into a world class force and lastly “place accountability, transparency and continuous improvement at the heart of WHOs culture.”

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WHO Director General Tedros stresses the need for bolder action to fight non-communicable diseases,VOA

Geneva, May 25, 2017: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s newly elected director-general, says health as a human right is at the core of his vision for the organization he soon will lead.

The former Ethiopian health and foreign minister is the first African chosen to head the organization, which was created 69 years ago.

After a long, bruising campaign that began in 2015, Tedros beat out two other contenders, David Nabarro of Britain and Pakistani physician Sania Nishtar, for the post by winning 133 of the votes cast by 185 WHO member states.

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“The outcome of the voting was very, very clear,” said Tedros. “Having confidence from the majority of member states gives me legitimacy to really implement the vision that I have already outlined.”

Tedros’ goals

That vision included five promises, which Tedros made to the World Health Assembly during a final campaign pitch preceding Tuesday’s secret ballot vote.

He said that he would “work tirelessly” to fulfill the WHO promise of universal coverage and would ensure “a robust response for emergencies to come.”

He promised to strengthen the frontlines of health, transform the World Health Organization into a world-class force and lastly “place accountability, transparency and continuous improvement at the heart of WHOs culture.”

At a news conference in Geneva, he said the concept of health as a human right would be at the heart of whatever he did.

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FILE - A health official administers a polio vaccine to children at a camp for people displaced by Islamist Extremist in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 28, 2016. New WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says universal health coverage "should be the center of gravity of our movement."
FILE – A health official administers a polio vaccine to children at a camp for people displaced by Islamist Extremist in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 28, 2016. New WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says universal health coverage “should be the center of gravity of our movement.” VOA

“Half of our population does not have access to health care,” he said. That, he said, could and should be remedied through universal health care coverage, which would address the issue of health as a human right and act as a spur to development.

“All roads should lead to universal health coverage and it should be the center of gravity of our movement,” he said.

Tedros begins his five-year term as director-general on July 1, succeeding Margaret Chan, who has headed the WHO for the past 10 years.

The newly elected director general said he wants to reform and transform the World Health Organization into a better, more responsive agency.

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As Ethiopia’s minister of health, Tedros led a comprehensive reform of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s health infrastructure and health insurance coverage.

Resources a constant priority

As WHO leader, Tedros said one of his first orders of business would be to strengthen the organization’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies because “epidemics can strike at any time” and the WHO must be prepared.

“The campaign has ended, as you know, officially, but I think the work begins actually now. I know it is very difficult. It is going to be tough,” he said.

One of the major difficulties is that of money. Reform, tackling emerging and ancient diseases take a lot of money, something the World Health Organization, which reportedly is struggling to close a $2.2 billion gap, does not have.

FILE - A woman stands near a poster explaining the Zika virus at the Ministry of Health office in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 2, 2016. New WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that among his priorities will be to strengthen the WHO's ability to respond swiftly and effectively to health emergencies.
FILE – A woman stands near a poster explaining the Zika virus at the Ministry of Health office in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 2, 2016. New WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that among his priorities will be to strengthen the WHO’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to health emergencies. VOA

 

The problem is likely to be made even worse given the Trump administration announced budget cuts to global health programs, including a 32 percent cut to USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and between 20 percent and 30 percent cuts for scientific research institutes.

The United States is the biggest WHO donor. U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested funding cuts to the organization might be in the offing.

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Tedros observed that it is the poor that are the most affected by big financial cuts.

“I hope this will be understood before finalizing the proposal. I believe this will be taken into consideration,” he said.

He can take heart in that a congratulatory statement on his election from Tim Price, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary did not threaten any funding cuts. Instead, he told Tedros the United States looked forward to working with him on changing the World Health Organization for the better.

“The United States is committed to helping advance reforms and cultivating greater global health security,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. Government Human Rights Report Shows ‘Amber’ Warning Light Situation in Hong Kong

"Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation," the report said.

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The flags of Hong Kong (left) and its communist ruler China, in file photo. RFA

A U.S. government human rights report is ‘an amber light’ for the human rights situation in Hong Kong, with some of the city’s traditional freedoms under threat, commentators told RFA.

The State Department highlighted several areas of concern in its 2018Human Rights Report published last week, in particular, “encroachment” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

“Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation,” the report said.

The report cited multiple sources as saying that Chinese operativesmonitored some political activists, nongovernmental organizations(NGOs), and academics who criticized Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong,which is supposed to be separate legal jurisdiction under the terms of the “one country, two systems” framework.

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The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China. VOA

It also pointed to cross-border detentions and abductions, citing thedisappearance of businessman Xiao Jianhua and the cross-border rendition of Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen.

“Xiao’s and other abductions show the Chinese Central Government’swillingness to act contrary to the rule of law and undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the report said.

It said Hong Kong and Chinese officials had restricted, or sought to restrict, the right to express or report on political protest and dissent, particularly the notion of independence for Hong Kong.

U.S.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.” VOA

The trial of dozens of protesters, including key figures, after the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement on public order charges had”raised the cost of protesting government policies and led to concerns the government was using the law to suppress political dissent.”

The report also cited the jailing of two disqualified lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yao Wai-ching, last June for four weeks on “unlawful assembly” charges, following scuffles with Legislative Council security guards in 2016.

It said the banning of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party(HKNP) last September was one example, while the disqualification of six pro-democracy lawmakers for “improperly” taking their oaths of allegiance was another.

The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) voiced concern at thetime over the ban, which relied on colonial-era legislation under theSocieties Ordinance that originally targeted criminal organizations, or “triads.”

“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s highdegree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” the statement said.

‘An amber light’

Hong Kong political commentator Sang Pu said the State Departmentreport had struck a note of warning to the international community.

“I don’t think this is a red light, but it is an amber light,” Sang told RFA, adding that a further deterioration could affect Hong Kong’s international reputation as an open port.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.”

Another red flag would be the enactment of sedition, subversion andnational security laws, as mandated by Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Sang said.

Meanwhile, a national law passed by Beijing in September 2017“criminalizes any action mocking the Chinese national anthem and requires persons attending public events to stand at attention and sing the anthem in a solemn manner during its rendition,” the State Department report said, adding that Hong Kong will soon legislate to make the law apply in its own jurisdiction.

It also pointed to the effective expulsion from Hong Kong, the first since the handover, of Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, after he hosted at event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club featuring HKNP founder Andy Chan as the speaker.

The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who also heads Hong Kong’s CivicParty, said he shares concerns over Hong Kong’s reputation.

“Our most important competitor, Singapore, has free trade agreements with pretty much the rest of the world, and Hong Kong is lagging behind,” Yeung said.

Also Read: North Korean Authorities Ramping Up The Levels of Strictness at Weekly Self-Criticism Sessions

“Our international image is probably that Hong Kong wouldn’t be capable of such a thing,” he said. “Other countries might not be interested in pursuing free trade agreements with Hong Kong, because there are no benefits to doing so.”

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said Hong Kong remains a free society.

“We have a very high level of human rights protection,” Leung said. “I hope they aren’t going to suppress our economic freedom under the guise of human rights.” (RFA)