Global health organization prepares to name leader

John Donnelly | 09 Jan 2007
Boston Globe

The next leader of a global organization that fights major infectious diseases, including AIDS, may come from a group that includes the former health minister of Mexico, France's AIDS ambassador, the former leader of UNICEF, and several leaders of the World Health Organization, according to a list of names obtained by the Globe.

The board overseeing the organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, failed to select a new executive director last November and now hopes to name one at a meeting in Geneva early next month.

The fund, which has committed spending $6.8 billion in donations from governments and private foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, now faces a period in which donors are expecting more detailed proof that its programs are working. The fund, which started in 2001, is operating in 138 countries.

A nomination committee, aided by an executive search firm, has narrowed the field to at least nine people, according to a person familiar with the proceedings who asked not to be identified because the fund had pledged to keep candidates' names secret.

The nine are Julio Frenk, Mexico's former health minister who was a finalist last year to be head of the World Health Organization; Michel Kazatchkine, France's AIDS ambassador and one of two finalists for the fund's executive director post last year; David Nabarro, a senior WHO administrator now leading United Nations efforts to fight avian flu and a possible human pandemic influenza; Alex Coutinho, a highly successful manager of AIDS treatment programs in Uganda; and Carol Bellamy, who led UNICEF from 1995 to 2005 and now is president of World Learning, an international educational organization based in Brattleboro .

Also under consideration are Kunio Waki , a Japanese national who leaves his post as deputy executive director of the UN Population Fund at the end of the month; Jack Chow , a former State Department senior official who also headed WHO's AIDS programs; Arata Kochi , head of WHO's reenergized malaria program; and Brad Herbert , former director of operations for the fund.

The candidates either applied for the job or a board member nominated them. The nomination committee is scheduled to interview the finalists next week and is expected to present a short list of five candidates to the full board by Jan. 19.

The other finalist for the post last year, Michel Sidibe , has withdrawn from consideration, saying the voting process "bitterly polarized" the 20-member Global Fund board, according to a Dec. 17 e-mail he sent to Carol Jacobs, the board chair . Under its rules, two-thirds of the board from developing countries and two-thirds of the board from wealthy countries must both support the executive director; Sidibe and Kazatchkine failed to win both super-majorities.

Bernard Rivers , editor of the Global Fund Observer , an independent newsletter that closely tracks the organization, said he did not know the names of candidates under consideration by the fund's nomination committee.

When the organization began five years ago, "I was saying the most important thing was getting the donors to give the money," Rivers said yesterday in a phone interview from Dublin .

Rivers said the next executive director's top priority should be to show results from the fund's programs.

"Now the biggest challenge is getting the grants to perform, because once they perform the donors either will volunteer more money or moral pressure can be put on them to come up with more money."