Saima Wazed from Bangladesh has been nominated as the next World Health Organization Regional Director for South-East Asia.Member States voted to nominate Ms Saima Wazed during a closed meeting at the Seventy-sixth session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia Region. Nepal’s candidate Dr Shambhu Acharya received limited support and lost the election, even though he possessed the qualifications and experience necessary for the role.
I present my general observations and lessons that may be learned from such situations in the paragraphs below.
Effective lobbying and diplomacy: In international elections like the one for the WHO SEARO RD, effective lobbying and diplomacy play a crucial role. Countries must proactively engage with other member states, build alliances, and present a compelling case for their candidate. It’s essential for the government to demonstrate strong support for their candidate through active diplomatic efforts.
Strengthening international networks: Developing and maintaining international networks and partnerships is essential. These networks can be instrumental in garnering support for a candidate. Building relationships with other countries within the region and globally can enhance a candidate’s chance of success.
Public diplomacy: Engaging the public and creating a sense of ownership of the candidate’s candidacy can also be valuable. Public support can put pressure on the government to actively advocate for its candidate and invest the necessary resources.
Learning from mistakes: After such an outcome, it is crucial to conduct a thorough analysis of what went wrong and why the candidate did not receive the expected support. Learning from these experiences can help the country better prepare for future elections and ensure a stronger showing next time.
Fostering international cooperation: Collaboration and cooperation with other countries within the region on common health goals can improve a country’s standing when it comes to regional health leadership positions.
Capacity building: It’s important for countries to invest in the capacity building of their health professionals, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in international health leadership roles.
While it’s undoubtedly disappointing when a candidate receives minimal support in international elections, it’s essential to view these situations as learning opportunities and use them to strengthen future efforts. In the context of the WHO SEARO RD election, Nepal can work to enhance its international diplomacy and engagement to ensure that its future candidates receive all the support they deserve.
Dr Padam Simkhada is an Associate Dean International and Professor of Global Health at the School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield, UK.