According to a World Health Organization (WHO) document published online on Jan. 4, a WHO working committee proposed increasing each member state’s annual payment. However, according to four individuals participating in the deliberations, the Biden administration rejects ideas to make the agency more independent. This casts doubt on the Biden administration’s long-term commitment to the UN organization.
The U.S. objections were confirmed by four European officials involved in the talks, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The U.S. administration did not respond to a request for comment right away.
The WHO’s main budget is dedicated to combating pandemics and building global health care systems. It also contributes $1 billion every year to combat specific global concerns, including tropical diseases and influenza.
According to an independent pandemic panel created to advise on WHO reform, the existing structure is “a huge risk to the integrity and independence” of WHO. It has urged for a more significant rise in mandatory fees, up to 75% of the core budget.
According to U.S. officials speaking to Reuters, the U.S. administration opposes the reform because it is concerned about the WHO’s ability to deal with future threats, notably those posed by China.
Instead, it advocates developing a separate fund to prevent and control health emergencies, which contributors would directly manage.
According to proponents, WHO’s existing reliance on voluntary funding from member nations and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation encourages the organization to focus on a donor-defined goal. In addition, it makes it less likely to criticize its members when things don’t go as planned.
There is no agreement on the proposal
According to three of the officials, the plan will be reviewed at the WHO executive board meeting next week, but due to the rift, no agreement is expected.
In response to a question, the WHO stated that “only flexible and predictable funds can enable WHO to fully implement the priorities of the Member States.”
The plan has the support of top European Union funders, notably Germany and the majority of African, South Asian, South American, and Arab countries, three of which European officials appear to be informed.
According to a European official, who also believes that building a new organization controlled by donors rather than WHO will diminish the agency’s ability to tackle future pandemics, the U.S. idea “causes scepticism among many countries.”
The WHO noted that there is presently no consensus among member nations. Negotiations are likely to continue until the World Health Assembly’s annual meeting in May, the agency’s decision-making body.
Washington has been critical of the WHO for some time
After criticizing the WHO for upholding China’s first delay in providing information when COVID-19 surfaced there in 2019, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the organization.
Soon after entering office, the Biden administration re-engaged with the WHO, but officials warned Reuters that considerable reform is needed. They also expressed concerns about governance, organization, and the country’s ability to deal with rising threats, particularly China.
According to one of the European officials, other big countries, such as Japan and Brazil, were also wary about the WHO recommendation being made public.
Two European officials stated that China had not yet indicated its opinion, while a third named Beijing as a critic of the initiative.
The governments of Japan, China, and Brazil did not respond to requests for comment right away.