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WHO ready for the fake news era? Yes Sir!

By Kristof Decoster
on October 23, 2017

While awaiting some real & in-depth analysis of what exactly went wrong before the weekend in the unsavoury Mugabe-story, as well as what triggered the rescinding of the goodwill ambassadorship by Sunday afternoon –  we hope with many this was just a one-off gaffe, but only time will tell …- below you find a fictitious conversation among WHO communication & strategy staff over the weekend, in the corridors of the Geneva headquarters…


Looks like these global health “observers” – who don’t have much better to do with their weekend anyway – are anxiously following our WHO twitter account, for an update on our Mugabe story. It seems our grand master plan is working! Indeed, we, at the WHO, want to do things differently in the new SDG era. No more “High-Level decisions” taken by a bunch of 20, 30 white men at High-Level Breakfasts & the like, no, we believe in social media, and a movement of global citizens pushing WHO & others forward, towards a better NCD (and global/planetary health) future!  In the new times, citizens around the world have to feel engaged, so what better strategy could one think of than inviting Mugabe for the NCD goodwill ambassadorship in Africa? 

93 years old – great NCD role model in the first place, if you ask us – a bit Alzheimer but not too much (so that you can still be angry with him), but more importantly a crook & serial human rights offender, with a whiff of pan-africanism around him to keep the political scientists busy: we just knew that would stir up the global health community big time. If we could, we would have dug up colonel Khadaffi himself.  Indeed, real, transformative & disruptive change can only occur after first kicking some big fuss – we don’t believe in the Global Fund’s ‘inviting of feedback  through a dedicated (consultancy company)  inbox”. That’s so old school!  

Sure enough, Richard Horton – whose buttons are easily pushed, as we all know, – took the bait, even coming up with the lovely ‘Dictator-General’ in the process. Some traditional Western donor countries also exposed their trademark ways of behaving with WHO, threatening to cut off funding – as if we’d even want funding from that morally bankrupt UK government : ). Nah, give us the Chinese, they have more money anyway. 

By the time Ann “totally crazy” Coulter spotted the story, we knew it was time for our Grand Communication finale. As we had built up the momentum carefully over the weekend, releasing very little information, it was time for dr Tedros – who was happy to play the game with us – to land back on the ground, Messiah-style, “I’ve heard you”. And provide all the global health watchers with a happy weekend after all, so that they could find sleep on Sunday evening. Getting enough sleep is important for NCDs.

This Mugabe thing was just a first try-out, but it’s safe to say it was a massive success. NCDs are surely on the global map now. We actually have a few more ideas and dodgy ‘champions’ in the pipeline – instead of just seeking buy-in from these anodyne political entities like the G7, the G20 etc.

Mugabe was our human rights bait, for ‘health as an investment’ we’re thinking of Trump – who can’t get anything done, it seems, in between his many tantrums & tweets -, for global health security we feel Mr Modi would be a great ambassador (chronically underfunding his public health sector on a routine basis, as he is), while for the charity lens Boris Johnson comes to mind. He’ll soon be out of a job anyway.

But our long-term Trojan horse – already put in place by Tedros’ predecessor, actually – is no doubt Michael Bloomberg.  You know, people always complain billionaires have too much to say in WHO, but nothing could be further from the truth. We, at WHO, actually have a grand strategy with the billionaires we involve in our causes. Bloomberg is a real NCD champion, no doubt, but sooner or later a substantial part of the 99 % will find out he’s not on their side, if only in their pockets. When that happens, to quote a famous US president, ‘great things will surely happen’!

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