New WHO chief begins duties, pledging focus on countries and HIV/AIDS

Lee Jong-wook

21 July 2003 – The new chief of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), Jong-Wook Lee, took office today with a pledge to focus the agency on achieving results in countries, helping to tackle the widespread human resources crisis in the health sector and prioritizing HIV/AIDS.

“Our work together in the coming years will be guided by three principles. We must do the right things. We must do them in the right places. And we must do them the right way,” Dr. Lee said in his inaugural address to WHO staff in Geneva.

The new WHO Director-General also stressed that the agency’s work must have the clear and explicit aim of achieving results in countries. “This idea is as old as the Organization itself. What has changed is the urgency of our commitment, and the determination to back this commitment with resources. We are putting countries where they should be – at the heart of WHO’s work,” Dr. Lee said.

The shortage of skilled health personnel, however, slows progress towards achieving such health goals, he said, pledging to work closely with countries and communities to “build the health work force using innovative methods of training, deployment and supervision of allied and community health workers.”

Dr Lee – who succeeds Gro Harlem Brundtland – said HIV/AIDS would be given a renewed emphasis as one of WHO’s priority programmes, particularly focusing on the target of providing three million people in developing countries with antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2005, the “Three by Five” goal.

“Today, as the HIV/AIDS pandemic enters its third decade, fresh political will and new technologies have created an opportunity to turn the tide of this global killer. The international community must act now,” he said. “I am, therefore, constituting an HIV/AIDS leadership team to ensure that WHO, working with local, national and international partners, will be at the forefront of this effort.”

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