Tuberculosis (TB)

Global health leaders honour UN Secretary-General Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis

15 April 2013 | Geneva | The WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, the Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Mark Dybul and the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Dr Luiz Loures among others honoured Dr Jorge Sampaio, former United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis at a special ceremony organized by the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership. A certificate of recognition was presented to Dr Sampaio by the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan for his commitment to raising the profile of the fight against tuberculosis and advocating for improved tuberculosis control among global leaders.

He has been an envoy of the first order for TB, but also for the values of public health that WHO stands for,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, at the honour ceremony in Geneva. “This means access to treatment and care for everyone in need, no matter how poor or marginalized," she said.

Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, commended Dr Sampaio for an approach to public health that is grounded in social justice. “Dr Sampaio has focused on those who are marginalized, those who are affected by stigma and those who don’t have access to services,” he said. “He has pushed the agenda on TB and TB/HIV and his leadership has put these issues back on the map.”

Dr Amy Bloom, the interim Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board, presented Dr Sampaio with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the Partnership’s more than 1000 partners. “Ensuring that TB is on the global agenda is a continuous challenge,” she said. “Dr Sampaio’s efforts have elevated the profile of TB among heads of states and organizations and, most importantly, convinced them to take action.”

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department, and Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, also thanked Dr Sampaio for his leadership over the past six years.“I admire President Sampaio’s approach to health from a human rights perspective and I am convinced that he will keep promoting our cause against TB,” said Dr Raviglione. “Dr Sampaio’s work has been an inspiration to us,” said Dr Ditiu. “His dedication to improving the health of people in some of the world’s poorest communities serves as a constant reminder that the place where you are born should never dictate whether you should live or die.”


Putting TB on the global political agenda

In May 2006 the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, appointed Dr Sampaio as Special Envoy to Stop TB to help him raise the issue of tuberculosis on the international political and development agendas. A major part of his brief was to pursue the implementation of the Global Plan to Stop TB as a roadmap to achieving the relevant Millennium Development Goals. The Special Envoy reports directly to the Secretary-General.

In this capacity, Dr Sampaio enjoyed a privileged relationship with the WHO Director-General, and was fully supported by the Stop TB Department at WHO headquarters and the Stop TB Partnership Secretariat. He relinquished the role of Special Envoy only recently in December last year.

The fight against tuberculosis

In the fight against tuberculosis – which affects more than 8 million people globally every year, killing one in five of them – throughout his tenure as Special Envoy, Dr Sampaio embarked on an ambitious programme to raise visibility, including personally urging all Group of Eight (G-8) leaders to prioritize tuberculosis.

As a result of Dr Sampaio's efforts to raise the profile of TB, the disease was included in the official agenda of the UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS 2011 in the context of TB/HIV co-infection. While advocating for TB control at the MDGs Summit, Dr Sampaio also launched the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-15 in the context of the World Health Summit, in Berlin, in 2011.

In 2009, he convened the HIV/Tuberculosis Global Leaders’ Forum held at UN Headquarters, New York, which was attended by the UN Secretary-General and Dr Chan, among others. He also visited several TB-endemic countries around the world in a bold initiative to highlight the disease and its co-infection with HIV. In 2010 at the International AIDS Society Meeting in Vienna, Dr Sampaio presided over the signing of a landmark memorandum of understanding between the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS.

Dr Sampaio had also served, from 2007 till last month, as the first UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations – the international initiative set up in 2005 to promote reconciliation between religions, cultures and nations – also on appointment by the Secretary-General.

Former President of Portugal

Dr Sampaio was elected President of Portugal in 1996 and re-elected in 2001. A graduate in law from the University of Lisbon, Dr Sampaio was often involved in the defence of political prisoners during his career as a lawyer. He founded the Portuguese Social Left Movement in 1974 and joined the Socialist Party in 1978. The following year he was elected as a deputy for Lisbon in Parliament and served as mayor of the Portuguese capital for two terms from 1989. He was also a member of the European Commission for Human Rights (1979–1984).