April 10, 2020

WHO Under Fire

“President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, saying the international group had ‘missed the call’ on the coronavirus pandemic.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is critical of the WHO but argues against drastic measures such as cutting its funding in the middle of a pandemic.

“The WHO’s constant praise for China’s response has left many exasperated… Of course, it’s not easy being a multilateral organization whose budget has been slashed over the years and which must tiptoe around the sensitivities of some of its members. The WHO wanted to keep doors open and have access to important data and findings from Wuhan. China is also a major donor, and was, some have noted, an important backer of Tedros’s leadership… Trump, then, raises the right issue — but in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time…

“The danger is that both his detractors and supporters will now take away the wrong message. Those inclined to dismiss anything the President says may fail to recognize how the WHO’s priorities, decision-making structure and even funding bears a more critical look in the interest of improving the organization’s credibility and ability to respond to future crises. Meanwhile, his supporters may be tempted to take their cues from Trump’s finger-pointing, fail to learn the lessons of the U.S.’s own failures and believe that blame lies far from their shores.”
Therese Raphael, Bloomberg

“Amanda Glassman, the executive vice-president and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said a deeper problem is the WHO’s low budget and relatively toothless structure. Unlike the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has no redress against governments that do not cooperate. ‘It operates in countries at the pleasure and permission of the host country governments. So in the case of China, to be allowed to enter China, it was a negotiation to get there,’ Glassman said.”
Julian Borger, The Guardian

“Disagreements with the WHO should not lead the US to slam the group or withdraw support. While many governments ignored early WHO guidance and instituted trade and travel restrictions, the global community still needs an authoritative body that sets standards, collates and studies all of the pieces of the Covid-19 puzzle coming in from affected countries… One has to admit the WHO, like the UN itself, is not perfect and is badly in need of reform. But at a time when humankind is literally fighting for its life, now is the wrong time to decapitate the agency leading the global response. If not the WHO, then who?
Michael Bociurkiw, CNN

“[Trump’s] living in a glass house… [he has] repeatedly vouched for China. He said Jan. 24 that ‘The United States greatly appreciates [China’s] efforts and transparency.’ He also said Feb. 7 that he wasn’t concerned about China covering things up. He said Feb. 26 that China was working ‘very hard’ and on March 4 that it had the situation under control. To the extent the WHO’s assurances about China were lending it unwarranted credibility, you could argue Trump was doing the same.”
Aaron Blake, Washington Post

“Early on, when the WHO wasn’t as harsh on China as it perhaps should have been, it was not getting support from the United States to do anything differently. [Global public health expert Stephen] Morrison said it’s important to remember that the WHO is an organization made up of its member states... To forcefully take on one of those members (in this case, China), it needs the backing of the others. No major world leaders at the time — not the United States, not leaders in Britain and France — were telling the WHO to go after China and assuring it that they would have its leaders’ backs, Morrison said. ‘So the idea [the WHO] is supposed to launch off on some sort of suicidal confrontation with China just doesn’t happen,’ he said.”
Amber Phillips, Washington Post

“The focus by Trump and other leading Republicans on the WHO and China is, while based on some legitimate complaints, a fairly transparent effort to deflect from the administration’s own failings… It’s also a little rich for this administration to criticize the WHO’s pro-China bias. The U.S. is the largest funder of the WHO by far and enjoys substantial influence in the organization. It has chosen to exercise that influence in extremely odd ways, such as threatening sanctions on countries to defeat an innocuous WHO resolution supporting breastfeeding. The Trump administration has cut U.S. funding for international public health efforts and moved to disassociate from a plethora of U.N. agencies. Its budget request in February included a 53 percent cut to the WHO. If the U.S. doesn’t like China’s clout at the WHO, it has to exercise clout of its own.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

From the Right

The right is critical of the WHO and argues that it needs to be significantly reformed in order to continue receiving US funding and support.

The right is critical of the WHO and argues that it needs to be significantly reformed in order to continue receiving US funding and support.

“Incredibly enough, in late January, Tedros was praising Chinese officials for ‘the transparency they have demonstrated.’ A team of experts lauded China’s response after a mid-February visit to Wuhan, contributing to Beijing’s storyline that it succeeded in containing the virus where everyone else has failed. Despite the emerging consensus that China has lied about its number of cases and deaths, and despite China’s refusal to share key information about the virus, WHO hasn’t said a discouraging word about China’s actions…

“It’s been resolute, though, in excluding Taiwan from its workings, just as Beijing dictates. From a public health perspective, this has it exactly backward. Taiwan has proved quite adept at controlling outbreaks and got this one exactly right, in large part because it didn’t believe anything that China or the WHO said.”
Rich Lowry, Politico

“Instead of demanding accurate information from China, the WHO foolishly parroted the communist regime’s talking points, claiming human-to-human contact would not facilitate the spread of the virus and reporting China’s COVID-19 numbers as fact when it was obvious the regime was lying. The organization also refused to recognize scientific data from Taiwan because China does not view Taiwan as a legitimate nation. The question is: Why? Why does the WHO refuse to hold China accountable when it is clear the communist regime is responsible for the origination and the subsequent cover-up of this pandemic?”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“The U.S. should work aggressively to change the culture and leadership of the WHO. The Trump administration took a good first step in January by creating a special envoy at the State Department focused on countering China’s attempts to control international organizations. The WHO’s next director-general must not be a rubber stamp for Beijing. If efforts to transform the WHO are ineffective, the U.S. may have no choice but to walk away and start over...

“That could mean creating an alternative organization open to any country willing to abide by higher standards of transparency, good governance and the sharing of best practices. The world needs an organization that can be trusted to address public-health problems that transcend borders—if not the WHO, then something else.”
Lanhee J. Chen, Wall Street Journal

Some argue that “the problem is not just a failure of leadership on the part of [the WHO director general]. It’s China’s determination to use its power in international organizations to advance its national interests instead of addressing global challenges. There is a pattern of China seeking to place officials in charge of such organizations who will show proper respect to China and look the other way at its transgressions...

“When China disappeared the Chinese national serving as president of Interpol over an internal political dispute in 2018, the organization’s executive director was reduced to pleading with Chinese authorities for an update on his whereabouts and safety. To this day, China remains a member of Interpol in good standing…

“None of this is to say that China should be kicked out of the WHO, or that the U.S. should suspend its contributions to it. Most new infectious diseases begin somewhere in China. It’s to America’s and the world’s benefit to keep China inside the organization. What’s required is a savvier kind of diplomacy. Instead of just complaining about China’s participation in these global organizations, the U.S. should seek to counter China’s influence.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

“When the WHO emergency committee discussed whether to declare COVID-19 a public-health emergency on January 23, international observers had definitively discredited Chinese health data. Yet Tedros relied on those data in arguing against declaring an emergency — over the objections of other committee members. That decision delayed the mobilization of public-health resources around the world…

Congress should investigate Chinese influence on the WHO, and the U.S. should use its ample funding of the organization as leverage to demand transparency about its dealings with China. Our continued participation in the WHO should be in play. In its moment of testing, the organization kowtowed to Beijing rather than serve the public interest.”
The Editors, National Review

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