Dr. Nishtar’s credentials are uniquely suited to leading WHO for the following 10 reasons:
1. WHO is a technical agency and should be led by a leader with a strong professionalbackground—Dr. Nishtar’s technical excellence is evident from her resume. Dr. Nishtar has a unique combination of experience as minister, civil society trailblazer, leader in multilateral institutions, physician scientist, thought leader, and founder of institutions. Dr. Nishtar is a research-trained medical doctor, which is a critical strength for leading WHO. Her expertise is broad-ranging—health systems, public health, and sectors outside of health such as social protection, governance, and public-private engagement.
2. WHO is a multilateral organization and needs a leader who understands its dynamic—Dr. Nishtar’serudition in the multilateral system is well established. E.g., recently as Co-chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, she was instrumental in achieving global consensus on a complex public health strategy. She has a long-standing working association with WHO and knows the organization from many perspectives. The foundation of Dr. Nishtar’s work in all areas is sensitivity to cultural, social and political differences. She has worked with people from every region of the world, and is able to relate all levels of seniority. She masterfully convenes widely diverse constituencies, builds bridges across different cultural, social, economic and political perspectives and is able to lead people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
3. Dr. Nishtar has a proven track record of leadership to bring change and deliver results. This, combined with her wide experience, charisma, and excellent communication skills, make her a unique candidate. WHO is currently undergoing a reform and change process to ensure it technically and institutionally stays relevant and ahead as a top technical agency to deal with evolving global health-related challenges and crises—Dr. Nishtar’s work with systems reform, her ability to navigate and implement change and deliver results are well known. These capabilities would be crucial for the reform process.
4. Accountability for results is a key area of focus in the reform process—Dr. Nishtar’s selection by the UN Secretary General as founding chair a UN independent accountability panel is evidence of her accountability credentials. As federal minister, she undertook the widely acclaimed accountability approach through publication of the ‘Handover Papers.’ In her civil society role, she has campaigned to promote accountability and has institutionalized it while building institutions. She will bring the same accountability ethic to WHO.
5. As an organization, WHO needs strong management—as someone who has founded institutions from scratch, and taken them to scale, Dr. Nishtar has unique and strong management experience. She understands governance from her diverse experience as chair and member of boards, both nationally and internationally. Through her work building institutions, she has gained extensive experience in strategy formulation, fund mobilization, partnership building, and use of innovations for systems-building. At both Hearfile and in her time with the Government, she has developed and implemented systems to address and change systemic institutional constraints with a focus on merit and evidence-based decision making, while building safeguards against abuse and corruption.
6. WHO needs to be well-resourced in today’s financially-constrained milieu—Dr. Nishtar has proven resource mobilization skills. She has singlehandedly sustained an NGO and a charity in Pakistan over a decade and a half. She has learned to leverage transparency as a tool to mobilize donors, and ensure accountability for use of funds. She is familiar with innovative financing whilst being sensitive to the need to address legitimate concerns about conflicts of interest. Establishing institutions in a resource-constrained environment has made her adept at efficient utilization of resources and building strong systems for change.
7. WHO is committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with Non-Communicable Diseases and Universal Health Coverage as two major additional areas of focus—Dr. Nishtar would have an advantage due to her professional expertise in these areas. She also has a strong track record of inter-sectoral action for health, which is a crosscutting theme of the SDGs. With a universal approach to health and sustainability, the SDGs are framing a context where Dr. Nishtar can act as a bridge between national and global perspectives.
8. Partnerships and innovations can be force multipliers for WHO—Dr. Nishtar has led public-private partnerships with government and has mobilized many stakeholders in her civil society role. Dr. Nishtar was awarded the Global Innovation Award for designing and establishing innovative, robust and scalable systems and for her ability to think laterally, incubate and take to scale fresh ideas
9. It goes without saying that with her developing country background, and proven pro-poor record, Dr. Nishtar is well-placed to represent the views of, and be responsive to, the needs of the underprivileged. As a woman leader and change agent, she is particularly gender-sensitive. With a long track record and broad acceptability in internationalcivil society, she can additionally manage civil society engagement well. Dr. Nishtar is a bridge between the Muslim world and the west and has the confidence of both developed and developing countries. She effectively speaks on behalf of all, irrespective of gender, race, creed, colour or nationality. She has been involved with leading peace building initiatives, and is a vocal promoter of increasing Western-Muslim engagement.
10. Dr. Nishtar’s credentials are evident from her resume. However, a resume does not outline personal attributes, which are critical for leading complex organizations—her inter-personal and leadership skills, ability to multitask, and the combination of her creativity, agility, drive and commitment coupled with her humility. Dr. Nishtar has a proven track record of leadership to bring change and deliver results, particularly in difficult situations. She has the ability to seek counsel and advise, which is critical in a complex environment. Her clear-headedness and empathy, evoke consensus building and trust. Dr. Nishtar professional experience is complemented by an exceptional work ethic, a deep sense of moral purpose and flawless integrity. Her personality and temperament exemplify diplomacy. In 2000, she left a lucrative career as cardiologist and set course on a journey to reach the underserved, challenging business-as-usual models, and developing innovative solutions that are saving people’s lives. She has demonstrated her commitment to people’s well-being, especially that of the poor. The combination of her knowledge of micro—understanding people’s needs—to influence the macro in terms of policy reform and institutional change is unique.