Harsh Vardhan set to take charge as WHO Executive Board Chairman today

Harsh Vardhan set to take charge as WHO Executive Board Chairman today

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan will take over as chairman of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board today. He will be succeeding Dr Hiroki Nakatani, the adviser for international affairs to Japan’s Health Minister.

While the proposal to appoint Vardhan to the Executive Board was signed by the 194-member World Health Assembly on Tuesday, the WHO’s South East Asia bloc last year had unanimously decided to elect India’s nominee for a three-year term starting in May.

The 34-member Executive Board is one of the two of the WHO’s primary decision making bodies. Each member, qualified in the field of health, is appointed to the body for a period of three years. The Board chairman’s post is held by rotation for one year by each of the WHO’s six regional groups: African Region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asia Region, European Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Western Pacific Region.

As head of the board, Dr Harsh Vardhan will have to work towards implementing the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly, to advise it and facilitate its work. The board and the assembly work together to address the concerns of member states and create a forum for debate.

India’s contribution to the WHO dates back to January 12, 1948, when it became a party to the WHO constitution. The first regional director for South East Asia was an Indian, Dr Chandra Mani, who served between 1948-1968. Dr Soumya Swaminathan has been serving as WHO’s chief scientist since 2019.

As chairman of the executive board, Dr Harsh Vardhan will contribute shortlisting the next Director General of the WHO, once current chief Tedros Adhanom’s term ends in 2021.