D H
Apr 21 · Last update 2 mo. ago.

Is there really a problem with the WHO?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is an agency of the United Nations tasked with protecting global public health by advocating for universal healthcare systems, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health crises, and promoting human health and well being around the world. To date the WHO has been instrumental in a number of public health breakthroughs, such as eradicating smallpox, nearly eradicating polio, and the development of an Ebola virus vaccine. However during the COVID-19 pandemic the agency has come under increased criticism as numerous governments have pointed to failings in the WHO’s reaction to the outbreak. Is there a legitimate issue with the WHO, or are countries looking for a convenient scapegoat? www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200415_16
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UN reform needed to allow WHO to function
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The WHO is failing with both China and the US
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No, it is a distraction
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Yes, Trump is right to call them out
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UN reform needed to allow WHO to function

The problem with bodies like the WHO can be traced back to the very foundational structure of the UN, which was deliberately designed to ensure that the international system responds to the wishes of the 5 Security Council states above all else. Nothing can work until this fundamental issue is resolved, and for this reason we shouldn't blame the WHO as it is limited by the structural shortcomings of the UN as a whole. Likewise limiting WHO leadership to one non-renewable term would breaks down any chance of WHO leadership currying favour for powerful member states, and harming the efficacy of the body also. While problems with the WHO may not stem from the organisation itself UN and WHO reform would enable the organisation to function better.

One possible WHO point of reform could be regulating that WHO member states agree to facilitate WHO inspection, and to only block this on exceptional reasonable grounds. The Chinese blocked the visas of WHO staff during the onset of COVID-19 epidemic in Wuhan, however as China is a permanent UN Security Council member the WHO would be powerless to pressure China who enjoy veto power within the UN. Agreeing to stricter WHO guidelines may not be enough in such an example and restructuring the UN may more realistically allow this to come to pass. And indeed there have long been calls for such reforms even from inside the UN; so in some way yes, Trump is right to criticise the WHO, but wrong about why and wrong to cut funding, if anything that is more reason to fund them and give them more scope for change.

un.org/press/en/2019/ga12141.doc.htm un.org/press/en/2015/ga11694.doc.htm medium.com/foggy-bottom/five-ways-to-make-the-united-nations-even-more-effective-8ae5c1a8fa07 youtu.be/BzLNXSlxXvI?t=2698 technologyreview.com/2020/04/15/999085/who-trump-funding-cut-bad seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/who-needs-funding-not-scapegoating un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/funding-fight-against-covid-19-world%E2%80%99s-poorest-countries

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D H
Feb 15
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DH edited this paragraph
One possible WHO point of reform could be regulating that WHO member states agree to facilitate WHO inspection, and to only block this on exceptional reasonable grounds. The Chinese blocked the visas of WHO staff during the onset of COVID-19 epidemic in Wuhan, however as China is a permanent UN Security Council member the WHO would be powerless to pressure China who enjoy veto power within the UN. Agreeing to stricter WHO guidelines may not be enough in such an example and restructuring the UN may more realistically allow this to come to pass. And indeed there have long been calls for such reforms even from inside the UN; so in some way yes, Trump is right to criticise the WHO, but wrong about why and wrong to cut funding, if anything that is more reason to fund them and give them more scope for change.

The WHO is failing with both China and the US

The World Health Organisation’s main principle is to enable "the attainment by all peoples ... the highest possible level of health", but there are some very serious failings in light of this, that critics such as Donald Trump have failed to touch on. In the US the WHO is failing to adequately advocate for universal healthcare, doing little in terms of advocacy for better healthcare in the country, and allowing a situation to perpetuate where US citizens pay ten times more for healthcare than Cubans and enjoy less effective health care. The organisation is currently failing over 23 million Chinese people also, by not even recognising the island of Taiwan the WHO sets a dangerous precedent telling the world that UN organsations are partial to geopolitical divides.

But more worryingly it also deprives the world of a powerful ally in the fight against global pandemics, Taiwan's healthcare system is one of the best in the world and the country has experience from dealing with the first SARS outbreak from 2002-2004. Political forces are stopping the World Health Organisation follow its own guiding principles as pressure from large donor nations clearly stop the organisation from carrying out its own remit. The WHO needs to do more to advocate for universal healthcare across the globe to push for the highest level of health, while being more inclusive of territories that are in politically contentious regions, ensuring it truly is working toward healthcare attainment for all people.

theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/11/cuba-health/508859 nationalfile.com/world-health-organization-refuses-to-recognize-taiwan-says-theres-no-mandate thediplomat.com/2020/02/the-world-can-benefit-from-taiwans-who-participation

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D H
Feb 15
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/11/cuba-health/508859/ https://nationalfile.com/world-health-organization-refuses-to-recognize-taiwan-says-theres-no-mandate/ https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/the-world-can-benefit-from-taiwans-who-participation/

No, it is a distraction

Some politicians are looking to distract from their own failings in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and various criticisms of the WHO, and increasingly of China, are being used as a way mislead or to take attention away from their own actions. This is clearly proven by a US State Department cable obtained by the Daily Beast demonstrating that US officials attempted to launch an anti-China PR campaign to shift the focus away from the American government’s response during the pandemic. There is currently no pushback against this attempt to mislead as its not just Trump, but both parties in the US are trying to present themselves as tough on China, while the media is happy to report such claims also without actually digging any deeper.

The WHO gave a press briefing on 14th January 2020, in which they stated “preliminary investigations ... have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”, this has been presented by many media outlets [1] and Trump [2] as evidence of WHO failing to handle the crisis. However the WHO also clearly stated transmission might be a possibility and recommended countries to take precautions due to the human-to-human transmission being a possibility during the briefing in question. In addition clarifying just six days later that human-to-human transmission was an issue, the same day that the first confirmed case of the virus was reported in the US. So for Trump to claim this demonstrates mixed information demonstrates Trump, and some in the media, are ignorant of WHO briefings or using this as a narrative to distract.

spectator.org/the-world-health-organization-is-a-mess-will-trump-fix-it bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52289056 rediff.com/news/report/amid-covid-19-battle-trump-halts-funding-to-who/20200415.htm [1] dailycaller.com/2020/03/18/flashback-who-china-coronavirus-contagious [1] foxnews.com/world/world-health-organization-january-tweet-china-human-transmission-coronavirus [2] theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/who-cited-human-transmission-risk-in-january-despite-trump-claims nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191 thedailybeast.com/white-house-pushes-us-officials-to-criticize-china-for-coronavirus-cover-up

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D H
Apr 28
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DH edited this paragraph
https://spectator.org/the-world-health-organization-is-a-mess-will-trump-fix-it/ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52289056 https://www.rediff.com/news/report/amid-covid-19-battle-trump-halts-funding-to-who/20200415.htm [1] https://dailycaller.com/2020/03/18/flashback-who-china-coronavirus-contagious/ [1] https://www.foxnews.com/world/world-health-organization-january-tweet-china-human-transmission-coronavirus [2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/who-cited-human-transmission-risk-in-january-despite-trump-claims https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191 https://www.thedailybeast.com/white-house-pushes-us-officials-to-criticize-china-for-coronavirus-cover-up

Yes, Trump is right to call them out

The most vocal criticism of the WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic has come from Donald Trump, who has threatened to cut funding to the UN agency, and rightly so, the WHO sent mixed messages early on in the pandemic and has demonstrated a clear unwillingness to question China during this health crisis. In early 2020 the WHO publicly announced there was "no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission" [1] despite WHO staff not visiting China until the second week in February. The WHO subsequently backtracked considerably in the following weeks, leading some to question the accuracy of Chinese reports to the WHO.

Trump is not alone in this criticism of the WHO however; as Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Tarō Asō has noted that some refer to the WHO as the "Chinese Health Organisation" because of close ties to Beijing [2]. These accusations seem firmly evident from an interview with Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General, who repeatedly dodged talking about Taiwan as a distinct region from China when asked about the country’s response to the pandemic. How can a world health body be carrying out its duties when it is willing to ignore 23 million people in the name of political capital?

reason.com/2020/04/14/trump-vows-to-cut-off-u-s-funding-to-the-world-health-organization [1] bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52294623 [2] hotlifestylenews.com/world-news/trump-is-not-alone-in-criticising-the-who-over-coronavirus-heres-why hongkongfp.com/2020/03/29/video-top-doctor-bruce-aylward-pretends-not-hear-journalists-taiwan-questions-ends-video-call

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D H
Apr 26
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DH edited this paragraph
https://reason.com/2020/04/14/trump-vows-to-cut-off-u-s-funding-to-the-world-health-organization/ [1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52294623 [2] https://hotlifestylenews.com/world-news/trump-is-not-alone-in-criticising-the-who-over-coronavirus-heres-why/ https://hongkongfp.com/2020/03/29/video-top-doctor-bruce-aylward-pretends-not-hear-journalists-taiwan-questions-ends-video-call/
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