Return to Vital Stories
October 23, 2017

Updated: Vital Strategies, NCD Alliance, other civil society partners express concern about Mugabe WHO Goodwill Ambassador role; WHO retracts appointment

Vital Strategies joined our partners in health and human rights in denouncing the appointment of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador through a joint statement.

Mugabe was appointed to the role by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom during the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Disease in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Vital Strategies joined with the NCD Alliance along with 30 other organizations in calling for the appointment to be cancelled in joint statement (below) which featured in the New York Times, Stat News and other major news outlets.

Shortly afterwards, Dr. Tedros revoked the appointment.

Read the joint statement below. 


On 18-20 October 2017, the President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay Tabaré Vazquez and WHO convened 400 delegates from across governments, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector in Montevideo for the WHO Global Conference on NCDs. The Conference was an important demonstration of political leadership on NCDs and is a crucial milestone in moving towards the 2018 UN High-level Meeting on NCDs.

During the Conference, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros announced that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe would become a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

While we recognise that President Mugabe was the only African Head of State to accept the invitation to attend the WHO Global Conference and has made commitments to prioritise NCDs in his country, nevertheless members of the NCD civil society movement present at the conference are shocked and deeply concerned to hear of this appointment, given President Mugabe’s long track record of human rights violations and undermining the dignity of human beings.

Given these systematic abuses and his approach to NCDs and tobacco control in the past, NCD civil society present in Montevideo believe that President Mugabe’s appointment as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs cannot be justified.

We have raised these concerns with WHO DG Dr. Tedros during a meeting with civil society on the side-lines of the Montevideo conference. While we support WHO and Dr Tedros in their ambition to drive the NCD agenda forward, we are unable to recognise President Mugabe as a champion for NCDs.


1-Vital Strategies
2- NCD Alliance (NCDA)
3-Framework Convention Alliance (FCA)
4-Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK)
5-Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
6-World Heart Federation (WHF)
7-Healthy Latin America Coalition (CLAS)
8-Interamerican Heart Foundation (IHF)
9-Fundación Interamericana del Corazón México (FIC – México)
10-Mexico Salud-Hable
11-Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA)
12-University Health Network (UHN)
13-Cancer Council Australia (CCA)
14-McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer
15-Cancer Research UK (CRUK)
16-Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD)
17-Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network (YP-CDN)
18-Healthy India Alliance (HRIDAY)
20-Action Against Smoking (ASH)
21-International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE)
22-International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH)
23-Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ)
24-Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JTC)
25-Centro de Investigación para la Epidemia del Tabaquismo (CIET)
26-Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC)
27-International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC)
28-Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SATCA)
29-Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance
30-Fundación Interamericana del Corazón Argentina
31-Global Health Academy
32-European Association of Palliative Care


Back to top