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Health Minister Harsh Vardhan set to take charge as Chairman of WHO Executive Board

Harsh Vardhan would be formally elected at the Executive Board meeting of the World Health Organisation on May 22.

May 20, 2020 13:27 IST
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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is likely to take charge as the Chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board on May 22, 2020. Harsh Vardhan is expected to succeed Japan’s Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, who is the current Chairman of the 34-member board.

According to a source, the proposal to appoint India's nominee to the executive board was approved by the 194-nation World Health Assembly on May 19, 2020. Dr. Harsh Vardhan has been at the forefront of India's battle against COVID-19.

The Union Health Minister’s appointment to the post is almost a formality after it was decided that he will be India’s nominee to the WHO board, as WHO's South-East Asia group had unanimously decided in 2019 that India would be elected to the executive board for three years beginning May 2020.

Key Highlights

•  Dr. Harsh Vardhan would be formally elected at the Executive Board meeting of the World Health Organisation on May 22.

The Chairman’s post of the WHO Executive Board is rotational. It is held for one year among the regional groups.

It was decided last year that India's nominee would be the Executive Board chairman for the first year starting from May 22, 2020.

The Health Minister will just be required to chair the WHO Executive Board meetings. It is not a full-time role. 

The WHO Executive Board comprises 34 members, technically qualified in the field of health. Each member is designated by a member state elected by the World Health Assembly. The member states are elected to the executive board for a period of three-years.

The WHO Executive Board convenes twice a year, once in January for the main meeting and for the second time in May,  which is a shorter meeting that is held  immediately after the World Health Assembly.

The WHO Executive Board’s key functions include to give effect to the decisions taken during the Health Assembly and to advise it and facilitate its work. The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health organisation. 

Background 

India will take over the Chairmanship of the WHO Executive Board at a time when there are growing calls for an independent review of the origin of coronavirus, especially from US President Donald Trump who has threatened to pull US from the WHO if it fails to investigate how the deadly virus originated in China''s Wuhan city and subsequent actions taken by Beijing.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, while addressing the 73rd World Health Assembly on May 18, had highlighted how India has taken all the necessary steps in time to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He had pointed out that the country has done well in containing the disease and showed the confidence of doing even better in the coming months.

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