Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today took charge as the chairman of the 34-member World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board.
The Health Minister, who is at the forefront of India's battle against COVID-19, succeeded Dr Hiroki Nakatani from Japan.
"I am aware I am entering this office at a time of global crisis on account of this pandemic. At a time, when we all understand that there will be many health challenges in the next 2 decades. All these challenges demand a shared response," the Union Health Minister was quoted by news agency ANI as saying after taking charge as the WHO Executive Board Chairman.
The main functions of the executive board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.
Last year, WHO's South-East Asia group had unanimously decided to elect India's nominee to the executive board for a three-year-term beginning May.
The proposal to appoint India's nominee to the executive board was signed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly on Tuesday.
The chairman's post is held by rotation for one year among regional groups and it was decided last year that India's nominee would be the Executive Board chairman for the first year starting Friday.
It is not a full-time assignment and the minister will just be required to chair the Executive Board's meetings, an official said.
The Executive Board comprises 34 individuals, technically qualified in the field of health, each one designated by a member-state elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. Member States are elected for three-year terms.
The board meets at least twice a year and the main meeting is normally in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly.
(Inputs From PTI and ANI)