June 9, 2021 | The Hill

Exercising checkbook diplomacy at the WHO

June 9, 2021 | The Hill

Exercising checkbook diplomacy at the WHO

Excerpt

Leave it to the World Health Organization (WHO) to insist that the only way to prevent the next pandemic is for its member states to relinquish control over the organization’s budget and programming. That is, despite mounting evidence that WHO’s governance and prioritization deficiencies exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis. And yet, this was the key takeaway during the WHO’s recently concluded annual agenda setting meeting, one which coincided with a precipitous decline in U.S. influence over the global health body.

This year’s World Health Assembly took place against the backdrop of increasing condemnation of the WHO’s pandemic response, including demands that the “lab-leak” theory be re-examined. It also coincided with reports of sexual abuse within WHO’s ranks, along with allegations that WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus may have played a role in covering up the scandals.

With storm clouds brewing over its Geneva headquarters, the organization recently released a mea culpaacknowledging the pandemic “could have been prevented.” In its report, the WHO also conceded that it waited “too long to declare a global health emergency” after learning about a Chinese COVID-19 cluster in 2019. While the report’s summary contains nary a reference to China’s refusal to cooperate with WHO investigators, it reaffirms that the organization lacks the power to investigate and act swiftly when confronted with potential outbreaks.

Craig Singleton, a national security expert and former U.S. diplomat, is an adjunct China fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan think tank focused on national security and foreign policy issues.

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Issues:

China COVID-19 International Organizations