Leadership Change in the World Health Organization: Potential for Increased Effectiveness?

FNI Report 8/2002. Lysaker, FNI, 2002.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which the change of leadership in the WHO in 1998 has increased the problem solving capacity of the organization and thereby provided the basis for increasing the effectiveness of the WHO. Effectiveness is discussed primarily in relation to the output produced by the organization, that is which initiatives, programs and decisions have been taken by the new regime. Ideally we would have focussed on the outcome and impact produced by the WHO. However, these measuring rods have been discarded for methodological reasons. Leadership is discussed in relation to an internal and an external dimension. Internally we study primarily the ability of the new regime to unify the previously fragmented regime both in relation to the Headquarter as well as in relation to the Regional Offices. Externally we study the ‘reaching out strategy, cooperation with other relevant international agencies and the related issues of external fund raising and high level agenda setting. The new regime has been highly successful externally and the role played by the new Director-General, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland has been crucial for this performance. It is important to note, however, that the WHO has worked jointly with other agencies along this dimension. Internally the picture is more mixed, especially regarding the situation at the Headquarters in Geneva. Still, overall the WHO stands forth to day as a more vital and visible organization than it did in 1998, and leadership has played an important part in this development. However, it is important to note that the role of leadership is limited by severe structural constraints within the UN family. ‘Good’ leadership is therefore no ‘miracle cure’ to lacking effectiveness within the UN system, but it may play a small but important part.