Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is all set to take charge as the chairman of the WHO Executive Board on May 22. His appointment comes as India on May 19 was elected by the 73rd World Health Assembly to the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation for a period of three years. Nine other nations have also been elected to the Executive Board.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, who is at the forefront of India's battle against COVID-19, will succeed Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan, currently the Chairman of the 34-member WHO Executive Board. As India was elected to the Executive Board, the country nominated Dr, Harsh Vardhan as the chairman. The proposal was signed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly.
India is among 10 nations that were elected by the 73rd World Health Assembly to the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation for a period of three years. The other members include Botswana, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Oman, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom. It was decided unanimously in 2019 that India will hold the chairperson’s position this year after the WHO’s South-East Asia group proposed New Delhi for the executive board for a three-year term.
Briefing about the role of Dr. Harsh Vardhan, an official said that it is not a full-time assignment and the minister will be required to chair the Executive Board's meetings. As per reports, he will work closely with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He will also be responsible to implement the decisions and policies laid down by the World Health Assembly.
Addressing the 73rd World Health Assembly via video conferencing on Monday, Vardhan had said India took all the necessary steps well in time to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He had asserted that the country has done well in dealing with the disease and is confident of doing better in the months to come. India also voted in favour of independent probe into the origins of Covid-19 and the UN body's role in combating it.
The Executive Board is composed of 34 individuals from the field of health, each one by elected by member states. The Board holds two meetings annually- the first one in January and a shorter meeting in May immediately after the World Health Assembly. The principal functions of the Executive Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work.
India's appointment to the group comes at a time when the WHO member states have agreed for 'independently' investigate into COVID-19, its origin, and the response of the UN health agency. In the World Health Assembly (WHA), countries adopted a resolution calling for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the global response of the virus outbreak and an inquiry into the actions of the WHO and “timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic”. Amid the United States accusing China of 'hiding' facts and data about Covid-19, its suspension of funds to the UN body, and its threat to exit from the group even as China continues to reject all claims; experts say India's nomination will play an important role in the diplomatic relations between these nations.