The experts -- led by Dame Barbara Stocking, president of a college in Britain and former chief executive of the charity Oxfam -- called for the WHO to establish a new division with new staff and a new director that would coordinate emergency preparation, coordination and response. That was one of the only bright spots in the report for the WHO. In recent months, other organizations and individuals have floated the idea of handing over leadership for handling such crises to a U.N. group or creating a separate, independent agency for health emergencies from scratch, but the panel rejected these proposals opting instead for the less extreme recommendation of fundamental changes within the WHO.
But the panel emphasized that the new division, which they called the WHO Centre for Health Emergency Preparedness and Response, must not just duplicate and merge the outbreak and humanitarian work the organization is now responsible for.
"A simple merger will not suffice--it will need new organizational structures and procedures," they wrote.
The report urged the WHO to advertise for the head of the center -- a strategic thinker "able to make sound decisions quickly, and to discern when to move from a situation of normal readiness and alert to rapid response in the field" -- immediately.
The changes are needed urgently, the panel said, calling this a "defining moment for the health of the global community."
"The world simply cannot afford another period of inaction until the next health crisis," they wrote.