Dr. Tedros’ World Health Organization Director General Acceptance Speech

  • As delivered by Dr Tedros, upon winning the nomination to become the next World Health Organization, Director-General on May 23, 2017.
(Dr Tedros delivering his acceptance speech upon winning the nomination to be the next WHO Director General)

May 23, 2017–70th World Health Assembly — Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I think you must be tired after a long day.

My speech may be a bit maybe long but I will try to make it as short as possible.

Thank you Madame President, and thank you Excellencies, Ministers. Thank you Madame Director-General. Heads of delegations and ladies and gentlemen.

(Dr. Margaret Chan, outgoing WHO DG, walks with Dr. Tedros upon winning. PHOTO: Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty)

First of all, I would like to thank Sania and David for a dynamic campaign. It has been one year of a rollercoaster. You have each made extraordinary contributions and the world is counting on us to work together; and I would love to work with my colleagues Sania and David.

By the way we have known each other for many years, the three of us. But it was necessary to go through this campaign, and I think it was a very good campaign. But the bottom line is, I think the world needs all three of us. And you all said, you said, I think many said all three candidates `you are excellent’. And some of you even said why not have all of you in one? But we need only one Director General. That’s what you said. So we will work together.

I will not repeat my priorities because I have said it already in the morning. But I just want to make some comments on the election.

The transparency and inclusiveness of the process and the unprecedented engagement by stakeholders from every sector and region has been very very remarkable. And I need to comment on those who have designed this process. Although after one year of campaigning you can imagine how tiring the process is. But I think it’s worth it.

I have listened carefully to the member states during the campaign. A key message is that you do not want an A La Carte menu of technical assistance. You’re responsible for the health of your citizens, and you want a holistic offering from WHO which helps you to improve the health of your citizens.

(Dr. Tedros receiving a hug of congratulations.)

When I say I listened, actually, it reminded me of one thing also. I have been to almost all corners of the world. I have never travelled like this in my life. But one thing I would like to underline, I found our world to be so beautiful. So beautiful. Even more.

Believe me, not the geography or the rivers or the mountains and so on. That’s good. The beauty comes in the people. Beautiful people. Everywhere you go. And I believe that has really changed me in a big way.

Standing here today in front of you, compared to last year, I feel I am very different. And that difference is even more ready to serve you.

I have seen its beauty. I have seen that is can work together, respecting the diversity, I think we can move in a better way. But at the same time, what I have seen is in its beauty, that beauty comes from its diversity. We have to respect it, we have to respect the diversity.

There are many ways of doing things. The outcome in most instances is almost the same. I think respecting diversity means not really imposing our will on others. That is what I have seen.

(Newly elected WHO DG, Dr. Tedros)

Go everywhere. They don’t want to be told by others. They don’t. They can seek your advice, but they don’t want to be told. They want to be listened to first.

And what I promise to you and to the whole world, I will listen first. Especially to those owners of what they own. I need to listen first, that’s what I learned.

Then getting back to what I just mentioned….

During my discussions with you, one thing throughout the campaign which was really clear is, what I also said in the morning — is all roads lead to universal health coverage. This will be my central priority.

At present only about half of the world’s people have access to health coverage without impoverishment. This needs to improve dramatically. The path forward is really clear. The Sustainable Development Goals give WHO an opportunity to dramatically increase access to healthcare.

I have also heard from you three clear messages about how WHO does its business.

First, you want us to build effective partnerships. You want WHO to be a better partner, but at the same time lead from front and center. Because WHO is the undisputed leader of the global health agenda.

Second, you want us to be more effective, efficient and accountable. What my sister Sallie has already said.

Third, you want us to focus our resources on the most vulnerable people in the most fragile contexts. While serving everybody, but focusing on those who are the most needy.

I hear you and we will act on those messages.

(Dr. Tedros and colleagues celebrating the WHO DG win for Africa.)

When I have the privilege of taking office on July 1, I will provide more detail on our collective plan of action and response to these challenges. And it’s not going to be easy, and you know it. In fact it will be difficult. We will need your voices your commitment and your support.

We will need to work together to reach our common goals. Science, evidence and innovation will guide our actions, but we shall prevail.

To member states, I deeply appreciate your support. Thank you so much. I have learned so much from you over this campaign.

I have met almost all of you. I am here to serve you your collective will. This election has been unprecedented in that it brought transparency to the organization, and even greater legitimacy to the Director-General. I will exercise this legitimacy to bring the change and reform we need for this noble organization to reclaim its trust from member states, and from every citizen of the world.

Our highest obligation is to the people we serve.

Together we must ensure that WHO has the resources to deliver on its mission.

I commit that WHO will focus on measuring outcomes, and we will provide value for money.

To our partners, while WHO is at its core an intergovernmental organization, the challenges we face are too big to be solved by any one sector alone. I will make sure WHO works in its areas of comparative advantage.

We all have the same goal which is to improve health. I commit that WHO will work with you as a good partner.

To WHO staff, I value you. I will listen to you. WHO can be a great organization when we join together to serve and not only but serve well.

These are challenging times for global health. I commit to work with you to meet these challenges. We will innovate and measure our progress with clearly defined outcomes. I will do everything to create a fair and conducive environment, conducive working environment.

With a focus on ensuring good governance. It’s the motivation and participation of staff, and the conducive environment that can help use the full potential of our staff. This organization — and its true for any other organization — is that its central asset is its human resources — and I will give that my special attention.

And serving member states, working well with partners, creating conducive environments for staff, all this is to serve people. No other agenda.

I will never forget the people we serve. Because all we do is for the people we serve.

But they are not here in Geneva listening to our speeches, but rather suffering from preventable illnesses or being impoverished by seeking healthcare.

Together, we will save and improve the lives of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. This is my most solemn commitment to you.

I believe in us. I believe in us making a difference.

Through partnership and collaboration anything is possible.

Let’s get to work. Together for a healthier world.

Thank you. Thank you so much again. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for your confidence.

Thank you so much for your support


You can read more about Dr. Tedros and his vision for a healthy world as #ThePeoplesDG @WHO on his website: www.drtedros.com/ — and follow along with his activities on social media at Facebook.com/DrTedros.Official and on Twitter at @DrTedros.