Skip to main content

The UK backs Dr David Nabarro in his bid to lead the World Health Organisation

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Uncategorized

The UK Government has today given its formal backing to Dr David Nabarro, a British national who is in the running to become the next Director-General of The World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Nabarro, an international public servant and health expert with more than 30 years of experience, played a leading role in the United Nations’ fight against Ebola and is one of six international contenders to replace incumbent Dr Margaret Chan when she steps down in June next year.

Dr Nabarro, a London-born medic, has vast experience of high profile global roles. He is currently Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change; as well as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health said:

The Ebola outbreak demonstrated the vital importance of the WHO, but it also highlighted the need for ongoing reform to be taken forward by successive WHO leaders in order to push forward the Sustainable Development Goals while protecting global health security.

The current DG, Dr Chan, has shown strong leadership for years, and now the world needs an experienced successor with a history of delivery to ensure the WHO’s crucial work does not falter.

I am delighted that the UK is supporting Dr David Nabarro as a candidate in the WHO DG elections. Dr Nabarro is an exceptionally strong candidate for this prestigious and important global role. He has a proven track record of delivery, a wealth of experience, and a clear vision for the future of the WHO on key areas such as improving global health security, driving internal reform, and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.

Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development said:

David Nabarro is the outstanding candidate for the role of Director-General of the World Health Organisation. With his experience and long track record, David would provide the strong, reform-minded leadership that the WHO needs, and Member States expect, to improve the health and increase the prosperity of the world’s poorest people.

Dr Nabarro, who is based in New York, is currently overseeing the UN’s response to the cholera epidemic in Haiti. His high profile career, has seen him take on a number of global crises around food security, the Roll Back Malaria programme, avian and human flu, childhood obesity and climate change.


David Nabarro has served as the Special Adviser United Nations Secretary-General on climate change and food security. He was the Chair, Advisory Group on Reform of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences and Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Ebola

David Nabarro qualified as a physician in 1973 and began work for the NHS. In 1976 he worked for two years as District Child Health Officer in Dhankuta District, East Nepal. He then moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), qualifying in public health.

From 1990 he worked on the staff of the LSHTM Department of Human Nutrition, then was seconded back to Save the Children Fund (SCF) in 1982 as Regional Manager in South Asia, with responsibility for the work of SCF in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

In 1985 he joined the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine as a Senior lecturer in International Community Health. He moved to the British Government's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) as a Strategic Adviser for Health and Population in East Africa, based in Nairobi in 1989.

David Nabarro took up the post of Chief Health and Population Adviser, at the ODA headquarters in London, in 1990, and was promoted to be Director of Human Development (as well as Chief Health Adviser) in the UK Department for International Development in 1997.

He stayed in this role till he moved to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999. He has written at least 60 papers on public health and nutrition – most as contributions to ongoing health and development initiatives and a few in refereed journals or multi-authored books.  He has served on committees for the support of both pure and applied scientific research.


Key dates

  • Oct/ Nov 2016. Candidates appear before member states and  the WHO Board
  • 23 Jan – 1 Feb 2017.  WHO Board draws up short list. Three go forward
  • 22 May – 31 May.  DG elected by secret ballot at the World Health Assembly
  • 1 July 2017. DG starts term

Current DG WHO candidates

  • Dr Tedros Adhanom.
  • Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy.
  • Dr Sania Nishtar.
  • Dr Flavia Bustreo
  • Dr Miklós Szócska

Sharing and comments

Share this page