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China's Margaret Chan elected WHO chief

2006-11-09

    GENEVA, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday formally approved China's Dr. Margaret Chan as its new chief, to succeed Dr. Lee Jong-wook of South Korea who died suddenly in May.

Newly elected UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan of China gives a speech in Geneva of Switzerland, Nov. 9, 2006.

Newly elected UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan of China gives a speech in Geneva of Switzerland, Nov. 9, 2006.  (Xinhua Photo)


Newly elected UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan of China is sworn in in Geneva of Switzerland, Nov. 9, 2006. (Xinhua Photo)

    The WHO's top decision-making World Health Assembly, composed of all 193 member states, agreed by voting that Dr. Chan will be the next director-general, confirming a nomination a day earlier by the 34-nation governing Executive Board.

    At a special session of the Assembly, 150 member countries voted in favor of Chan, with 2 against and 2 abstentions. Other member countries did not vote for various reasons, diplomatic sources said.

    A new director-general nominee needs a two-thirds majority of real votes to get the Assembly approval for the post.

    Chan, 59, will take office in January 2007 for a five-year term. The UN agency has been led by Acting Director-General Dr. Anders Nordstrom of Sweden since May.

    Chan is the first Chinese national that has been elected to head a UN specialized body.

    The former Hong Kong health chief joined the WHO in 2003, and she had been the UN agency's assistant director-general for communicable diseases before announcing to campaign for the top post of director-general in July.

    Her bid for the job had been fully supported by the Chinese central government as well as the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, without which she could not have won the election, Chan told reporters following her nomination on Wednesday.

    The Chinese government said it had recommended Chan to head the WHO because of her solid professional background, strong leadership, and tremendous experience in public health.

    Chan had overcome Mexico's Health Minister Julio Frenk, WHO senior official Shigeru Omi of Japan, Spain's Health Minister Elena Salgado and another WHO official, Kuwait's Kazem Behbehani, to win the Executive Board nomination.

    Six other candidates from different regions were eliminated in initial voting by the 34-nation governing body.

    The WHO was established in 1948 with the objective of helping all peoples attain the highest possible level of health.

    The profile of the organization has risen dramatically in recent years as the world struggles to deal with such health challenges as a threatened flu pandemic, AIDS, chronic illnesses and dilapidated healthcare in poor countries.

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