On the 17th of September, Dr. Hans Kluge was nominated as the new WHO Regional Director for Europe at the annual meeting of the WHO European Region’s governing body, taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dr Kluge, a Belgian national, is currently Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe. He was 1 of 6 candidates for the post; the others were originating from Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia and Turkey.

In his address to delegates at the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, Dr Kluge pledged to focus on the feedback and messages he received from European Member States during his campaign across the Region.

Member States want to see an agile WHO/Europe providing a compass for better health in the Region. They want a very pragmatic toolbox for accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We have to take into account global health, the regional context, but also countries’ cultural and health system specificities,” he said.

Dr Kluge stressed the importance of partnership, which he considers “an ethical duty, not a matter of good will”. He emphasized that “WHO/Europe should walk the talk on the economy of scale, with less expensive meetings and a less top-heavy organigram”. WHO/Europe has to be cost-effective, he explained – less is more.

The objective is to strengthen WHO/Europe as a centre of excellence to give concrete help to countries on concrete issues, to work with determination and modesty to increase the impact at the country level, and to decrease the burden on countries – not least the small countries.”

For WHO/Europe, his priority is to establish a participatory approach with staff based on the WHO values charter and to eradicate harassment.
“The road is long, the mountains are steep, the instruments are few, but the solidarity is great,” he concluded.

After this nomination, Dr. Kluge’s candidacy will be submitted for the consideration of the WHO Executive Board at its 146th session in February 2020. Dr. Hans Kluge is scheduled to take up the new post on 1st February 2020. He will succeed Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, who served as Regional Director for the past 10 years.

Biographical note

Dr Kluge has been active in public health for 24 years. He started his career as a family doctor in Belgium and served for Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia and Somalia. He worked on large-scale tuberculosis programmes in prison systems in Siberia and several countries of the former Soviet Union. At the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, he was responsible for tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria programmes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar.

In the last decade at WHO/Europe, Dr Kluge engaged in large-scale system transformations, including the introduction of community-based primary health care in Greece during the financial crisis, the implementation of the Tallinn Charter, and the advancement of commitments adopted at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan, in 2018.