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In May, the World Health Assembly elected Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as its ninth Director-General, the first African to lead the World Health Organization (WHO) since its formation in 1948. Dr. Tedros faces a daunting task, with WHO facing a crisis of confidence after its much-maligned response to the West African Ebola epidemic. Does his leadership record bode well for the Organization’s future success? That success is vital to world health, as WHO alone has the international legitimacy to forge cooperative solutions to complex health challenges. Dr. Tedros’s record offers a sharp contrast between promise and peril for the Organization. As health minister for Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros forged unprecedented gains in population health; nevertheless, his country’s human rights record was abysmal during this same time period.

In a new Milbank Quarterly Early View op-ed, Lawrence O. Gostin explains that WHO is currently in an unvirtuous cycle. Member states have lost confidence in the Organization, while donors refuse to fully fund it, leading to additional dysfunction and failure. If Dr. Tedros is to succeed, he must regain badly eroded trust—not only among member states, but also among civil society.

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Lawrence O. Gostin, The World Health Organization’s Ninth Director-General: The Leadership of Tedros Adhanom, 95 Milbank Q. Online First, June 21, 2017