WHO Director-General makes first visit to WHO/Europe in Copenhagen


On 31 August, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made his first visit to the WHO Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen since assuming the role of WHO Director-General on 1 July 2017. During his visit to UN City in Copenhagen, he met with Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and addressed all WHO/Europe staff. He took this opportunity to share his immediate tasks and key priorities for the Organization in the coming years.

Dr Tedros outlines WHO’s key priorities for the future

Speaking to WHO/Europe staff, Dr Tedros underlined that political engagement is key to achieving progress on health, and he has sought to raise health onto the highest political agendas since taking office. He commented, “Our agenda is political, so we should strike a balance between our technical and political work”.

His first 55 days in office have also focused on identifying key issues and accelerating progress on them, including: polio transition, emergency preparedness, governance reform, resource mobilization and communication. He has also prioritized gathering input into developing WHO’s General Programme of Work.

In conclusion, Dr Tedros made a direct appeal to WHO employees, stating, “All of us have something to contribute to the organization, the only difference is the division of labour. We focus on people, and the issues to make good health possible”.

Dr Jakab thanked the Director-General, saying, “We are grateful that you are visiting the Regional Office within 2 months of taking office. Thank you for convening the Global Policy Group this summer, initiating the process of developing the new WHO General Programme of Work, and taking a bottom-up approach to the reform process”.

First recipient of Danida Alumni Prize

While in Copenhagen, Dr Tedros received the newly established Danida Alumni Prize from the Danida Fellowship Centre in Frederiksberg. As a Danida fellow in 1988, Dr Tedros studied at what was then the Danish Bilharziasis Laboratory in Copenhagen. He will be the first Danida alumnus to receive the prize, which will be awarded annually to a Danida alum who has made a significant contribution to positive change in their home country or professional field, based on their studies in Denmark.

Thanking the Danida Fellowship Centre, and reflecting on the valuable experience that being a Danida fellow gave him, Dr Tedros accepted the award on behalf of all those who have contributed to transforming Ethiopia’s health system.

Looking forwards, Dr Tedros said, “It is no secret that my top priority as Director-General of WHO is to help all countries on the path towards universal health coverage. My friends, do not take it for granted that you can see a doctor whenever you need to. Do not take it for granted that all the medicines you will ever need are available. Do not take it for granted that you will never have to decide between paying for health care and feeding your family. These are the everyday realities that face millions of people around the world. That is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable to WHO. I hope it is unacceptable to you”.

Dr Jakab and other senior staff from WHO/Europe attended the event in Frederiksberg.

Dr Tedros to attend WHO/Europe’s annual governance meeting

While this visit marked WHO/Europe’s first opportunity to welcome Dr Tedros since the start of his tenure as Director-General, the upcoming session of the Regional Committee for Europe, taking place 11−14 September in Budapest, Hungary, will soon offer another chance.

Dr Tedros will join ministers of health and other high-level government officials from the 53 countries of the WHO European Region, as well as members of civil society, for the 67th session of the Region’s governing body. He will address Regional Committee participants on the morning of Tuesday, 12 September, and his speech will be webcast live via the WHO/Europe website. He will also share with Member States the proposed mission and strategic priorities for WHO’s General Programme of Work and outline the planned consultative process for receiving feedback on this programme from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and other partners.