The elections of the new WHO Regional Director for Europe took place at the 69th meeting of the WHO European Region’s governing body. The nominee is Dr Kluge, a Belgian national, who started his career as a family doctor in Belgium and served for Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia and Somalia. Later 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, 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.

In 2011 Dr Kluge as Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health, special representative of the WHO Regional Director for Europe for Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (MDR/XDR-TB), visited Ukraine and, at Professor Hulchiy’s invitation, he took part in the International World Health Day Conference.

Dr Kluge was 1 of 6 candidates for the post; the others were from Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia and Turkey. He will succeed Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, who served as Regional Director for the past 10 years.

In his address to delegates at the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, 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.” Dr Kluge’s candidacy will be submitted for the consideration of the WHO Executive Board at its 146th session in February 2020.