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Weekly Current Affairs: April week-2 - Is WHO China-centric?

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    15th Apr, 2020

US President Donald Trump has attacked the World Health Organization (WHO) for being too "China-centric" in its tackling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Context

US President Donald Trump has attacked the World Health Organization (WHO) for being too "China-centric" in its tackling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

About

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) was born during the moment of hopeful internationalism that followed the chaos of the second world war.
  • The idea of global collaboration in fighting disease was not new – in the 19th century, at periodic International Sanitary Conferences, countries had standardised quarantine procedures for cholera and yellow fever – but the WHO constitution, adopted in 1948, envisioned a far grander global mission, nothing less than “the attainment by all people of the highest possible levels of health”.
  • WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.
  • It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

How is the WHO funded?

  • Geneva-headquartered World Health Organization, receives vast amounts of money from the United States. Mainly there are four kinds of contributions that make up funding for the organization:
    • Assessed contributions: From 1948, when WHO was established, the Organisation has relied on the assessed contributions of its member states for its regular budget. These are the dues countries pay in order to be a member of the Organization.
    • Voluntary contributions: These contributions come from Member States or from other partners.
    • Core voluntary contributions: Core Voluntary contributions allow less well-funded activities to benefit from a better flow of resources and ease implementation bottlenecks.
    • Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Contributions: PIP contributions aim to improve and strengthen the sharing of influenza viruses with human pandemic potential, and to increase the access of developing countries to vaccines and other pandemic related supplies.

Claims made by US:

  • The WHO helped the Chinese Communist Party hide the threat of COVID-19 from the world and now more than 10,000 Americans are dead, a number that is expected to rise dramatically in the coming weeks.
  • The United States is the largest contributor to WHO. It is not right that Americans' hard-earned tax dollars are being used to propagate China's lies and hide information that could have saved lives.
  • For reasons beyond understanding, the World Health Organization acted as a silent partner in this effort instead of protecting the lives of millions across the world, including hundreds of thousands of American citizens.
  • Our hard-earned tax dollars should not go to a global organization more concerned with not offending the Chinese government than providing accurate information and protecting innocent lives.

How has the WHO responded?

  • The WHO has rejected US’s criticism, saying that the organization has done tremendous work in providing guidance as COVID-19 travelled across the world.
  • It is clear that the WHO has been supporting numerous countries with equipment and training.

What is the reason behind such situation?

  • There is a simple reason for this. For all the responsibility vested in the WHO, it has little power.
  • Unlike international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, the WHO, which is a specialised body of the UN, has no ability to bind or sanction its members.
  • Its annual operating budget, about $2bn in 2019, is smaller than that of many university hospitals, and split among a dizzying array of public health and research projects.
  • The WHO has been drained of power and resources.
  • Its coordinating authority and capacity are weak. Its ability to direct an international response to a life-threatening epidemic is non-existent.

Conclusion:

The World Health Organization is less like a military general or elected leader with a strong mandate, and more like an underpaid sports coach wary of “losing the dressing room”, who can only get their way by charming, grovelling, cajoling and occasionally pleading with the players to do as they say.

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