GENEVA – Pakistan was elected chair of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board on Friday in Geneva, in what appears to be a landmark development with Director General Health Dr Asad Hafeez formally assuming office as chairman of the board.

The forum with 34-members is considered the highest global policy forum on health and it elected Pakistan as its chair with 22 votes during its 141st session held on June 1.

The WHO’s executive board meets at least twice a year. The annual board meeting is held in January when the member countries agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the assembly with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly.

Functions of WHO Executive Board

The main functions of the executive board are to advise and facilitate the World Health Assembly and to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly comprising 194 member countries.

The election is a two-tier process. The first phase was held at a regional level whereas a global forum was part of the final phase.

Pakistan was initially elected by a group of 22 countries making up the Eastern Mediterranean Region and later at the global forum by the executive board.

Soon after Pakistan’s election, Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar felicitated the nation and said it was indeed a great honour for the country.

‘The election is recognition of the important role Pakistan has been playing in the global health arena’ said Tarar.

The legislator said Pakistan had been chosen earlier as the host of a prestigious regional conference of health ministers being held in October that will bring together participants from 22 countries in South Asia, Middle East, West Asia and North Africa.

‘Pakistan has previously served as vice-chair of the executive board and is also a member of the board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization’ the minister added.