Backlash against Mugabe’s appointment as WHO ‘goodwill ambassador’

From left, Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, Moroccan Princess Lalla Salma, Pan American Health Organisation president Clarissa Etienne, WHO European Regional Director Zsuzsanna Jakab and Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Houlin Zhao, pose for a family picture during the Global Conference on Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) at Mercosur headquarters in Montevideo on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Backlash against Mugabe’s appointment as WHO ‘goodwill ambassador’

GENEVA: Shock and condemnation continued Saturday after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was named a “goodwill ambassador” for the World Health Organization by the agency’s first African leader.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, has long been criticized at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe’s once-prosperous economy falls apart. Mugabe also faces US sanctions over his government’s human rights abuses.
“The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a major British charitable foundation. “Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for.”
Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, called the appointment “offensive, bizarre.” “Not the Onion,” tweeted the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, in a reference to the satirical news site.
With Mugabe on hand, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia announced the appointment at a conference in Uruguay this week on non-communicable diseases.
Tedros, who became WHO’s first African director-general this year, said Mugabe could use the role “to influence his peers in his region” on the issue. He described Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies.” A WHO spokeswoman confirmed the comments to The Associated Press.
Two dozen organizations — including the World Heart Federation, Action Against Smoking and Cancer Research UK — released a statement slamming the appointment, saying health officials were “shocked and deeply concerned” and citing his “long track record of human rights violations.”
The groups said they had raised their concerns with Tedros on the sidelines of the conference, to no avail.
UN agencies typically choose celebrities as ambassadors to draw attention to issues of concern, but they hold little actual power. They also can be fired. The comic book heroine Wonder Woman was removed from her honorary UN ambassador job in December following protests that a white, skimpily dressed American prone to violence was not the best role model for girls.
Zimbabwe’s government has not commented on Mugabe’s appointment, but a state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper headline called it a “new feather in president’s cap.”
The southern African nation once was known as the region’s prosperous breadbasket. But in 2008, the charity Physicians for Human Rights released a report documenting failures in Zimbabwe’s health system, saying Mugabe’s policies had led to a man-made crisis.
“The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population’s access to food, clean water, basic sanitation and health care,” the group concluded. Mugabe’s policies led directly to “the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school and the beatings of health workers.”
The 93-year-old Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has come under criticism at home for his frequent overseas travels that have cost impoverished Zimbabwe millions of dollars. His repeated visits to Singapore have heightened concerns over his health, even as he pursues re-election next year.
The US in 2003 imposed targeted sanctions, a travel ban and an asset freeze against Mugabe and close associates, citing his government’s rights abuses and evidence of electoral fraud.


Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

Updated 15 December 2018
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Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

  • May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop”

LONDON: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that the British parliament could back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal if lawmakers received assurances from the European Union, but warned that a no deal Brexit was still on the table.
May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.
“When the dust has settled, the only way we’re going to get this through the House of Commons ... is to have a version of the deal that the government has negotiated,” Hunt told BBC radio.
Following a summit in Brussels on Friday, May said it was possible that the EU could give further guarantees that the backstop would be temporary although the bloc’s other 27 leaders told her they would not renegotiate the treaty.
Hunt said the EU was likely to make concessions to avoid Britain leaving without any deal, a scenario that both sides say would be highly damaging for business and their economies.
“The EU cannot be sure that if they choose not to be helpful and flexible ... that we would not end up with no deal,” Hunt said. “We cannot in these negotiations take no deal off the table. I don’t think the EU could be remotely sure that if we don’t find a way through this we wouldn’t end up with no deal.”
The Times newspaper reported on Saturday that most of May’s senior ministerial team thought her deal was dead and were discussing a range of options including a second referendum.
“Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.
“If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the Prime Minister’s deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”