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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.81 n.7 Genebra Jan. 2003 



World Health Assembly elects Jong-Wook Lee Director-General of WHO



The World Health Assembly has elected Dr Jong-Wook Lee of the Republic of Korea as the next Director-General of WHO. The Health Assembly, which brings together all 192 Member States of WHO, thus confirmed on 21 May the nomination of Dr Lee by WHO's Executive Board at its meeting in January. He is the first person from the Republic of Korea to be chosen to head a United Nations agency.

Dr Lee announced that "results at country level" would be the principal focus for his five-year term. This would be pursued through measurable health objectives, shifting resources to countries, increasing efficiency and accountability, and strengthening human resources. He said he would immediately expand and strengthen the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to identify and contain disease outbreaks around the world.

In his speech Dr Lee praised the dedication and commitment of Carlo Urbani, the WHO physician who first identified SARS in Hanoi, and subequently died of the disease. "Carlo Urbani has given us an image of WHO at its best," he said. "Not pushing paper but pushing back the assault of poverty and disease."

"The world today needs leadership in the ongoing struggle for security and justice," Dr Lee told the Assembly, "— security from infections, and justice for those afflicted by the diseases of poverty." He recalled WHO's commitment, as stated in its Constitution, to work for the highest attainable standard of health for every human being without distinction as to race, religion, political belief or economic or social condition. "These commitments are not naïve," he said. "They emerged from the most destructive war the world has ever seen."

Dr Lee is working with a team of advisers to prepare the next phase of WHO's work. His term as Director-General begins on 21 July.