The World Health Organization may not have predicted that at a critical moment in the global response to the new coronavirus pandemic, it will be pushed to the front of the political game between countries and become the “responsible party” in a country’s leading population.
But this did happen. US President Trump pointed at the World Health Organization and even the Director General Tan Desai at the White House press conference for two consecutive days on April 7 and 8, saying that the World Health Organization has downplayed the risk of the epidemic. If the WHO gives a correct analysis, “it could have served people better.” Trump also threatened the United States to suspend payment of dues to WHO.
Many WHO officials and Tan Desai also came forward to respond to these criticisms. Tan Desai said that the new coronavirus pandemic should not be politicized, because unity is the “only choice” to overcome the disease. Tan Desai said, “There is no need to use the new coronavirus pneumonia to obtain political scores. I don’t care who says me. I only focus on saving lives.”
The three allegations made by the US are not true
In his two allegations, Trump focused on three points, generally speaking, questioning the effectiveness and impartiality of the World Health Organization in responding to the outbreak.
First, the US believes that the World Health Organization could have done better and more timely. In this regard, Tan Desai detailed at the press conference on the five key tasks since the outbreak, including efforts to support countries’ response capacity building, including the release of strategic preparations and response plans, to determine the main actions that countries need to take and The resources needed to implement these actions; work with partners to provide accurate information on outbreaks and combat information crime; ensure that first-line health workers are provided with the necessary medical equipment; train and mobilize health workers; coordinate and accelerate research and development related to the outbreak.
WHO has published on the official website in detail the specific contents of the organization of the response to the prevention and control of various countries, including China, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union.
The WHO ’s epidemic information timetable shows that on January 5 WHO officially notified all Member States of the new epidemic; on January 10, WHO on how to detect, test and manage potential cases and protect health workers Issues were issued to all countries for comprehensive guidance; on January 20, WHO sent a delegation to visit Wuhan; on January 30, WHO declared the new Coronavirus as a public health emergency of international concern. It is worth noting that at that time, there were only 98 confirmed cases and no deaths worldwide outside of China.
In an interview with Peng Mei an associate researcher at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai International Studies University and an expert in global public health governance, stated that WHO ’s role in this epidemic response is mainly reflected in three aspects The first is the role of an alarm. WHO promptly declared the epidemic as an urgent public health event of international concern, including the subsequent announcement of a pandemic to warn the international community to prepare for the response; the second is to propose policy recommendations and technical guidelines; The third is to help developing countries prepare for their response, especially to coordinate the international allocation of materials in the event of a failure in the global personal protection market, especially to provide related materials to developing countries.
In response to the issue of the effectiveness of WHO, Tang Bei pointed out that the first point is that according to the actual authorization of member states, it is impossible for WHO to play the role of a world government. WHO ’s budget is very limited, and it has been in a state of financial tension for a long time. It is unrealistic to ask it to act like a country. The second issue to consider is that the new coronavirus (Covid-19) is a brand-new infectious disease, and global scientists have very limited knowledge about it. Therefore, WHO has always emphasized the uncertainty of the development of the epidemic.
Trump ’s second point of attacking the WHO addressed a specific WHO statement “There is a big problem”. On April 9, a US State Department spokesperson once again referred to this specific statement, saying that until January 14th, WHO still tweeted that there was no sign of “human-to-human transmission” in the new Coronavirus epidemic.
Looking at the original text in the surging news, the WHO tweet on January 14 did not directly deny “human-to-human”, but said that “the investigation so far has no clear evidence that the new coronavirus has” human-to-human “”, even In this way, WHO also reiterated in the official report published on January 14 that the virus “may be spread from person to person and further investigation is needed.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian answered this question at a regular press conference on April 10, saying that WHO issued the authority on the basis of China ’s external confirmation of the phenomenon of “person-to-person” and field visit Information, no responsible country or institution will rashly draw conclusions without sufficient and valid evidence.
In addition, Trump said that the WHO “partially” China. In response to this, Tan Desai said that he should not politicize the New Coronavirus pandemic. He also called on the United States and China to unite and fight this dangerous enemy.
Tang Bei analyzed that multilateralism and “rules-based” can be said to be a magic weapon for all international organizations to prevent influence or even manipulation by a single country. Both the financial resources from WHO in WHO and the number of Chinese national staff are very limited. It is ridiculous to say that the WHO became the “China Health Organization”. Tan Desai’s praise of China is based on China’s actively responding policies and the effectiveness of this strategy has been proved by practice. Tang Bei asked, if it is “China’s health organization”, why would other countries respect or even follow the WHO’s recommendations?
As experts say, there is currently a consensus on the key role of WHO in the epidemic response. Not long ago, the leaders of the G20 responded to the statement of the New Coronavirus Special Summit, “We fully support and commit to further strengthen WHO’s responsibility in coordinating international anti-epidemic actions.
On April 6, more than 100 former politicians and scholars from more than 70 countries in the world also signed the “Initiative Letter to the G20 Members”, emphasizing support for WHO to play a leading role in coordinating international anti-epidemic actions, as well as Urgent measures promote the rapid recovery of the world economy and call on all countries to increase their support. Among the signatories of the initiative are former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Even after the United States expressed its dissatisfaction and doubts about WHO, other countries also publicly expressed different opinions. French President Macron called Tan Desai on April 8 to express his support and trust in WHO. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zaharova said on the 9th that the US position was not constructive and outdated when the scale of the new coronavirus epidemic increased.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said in a call with French Foreign Minister Le Drian on the 9th that WHO upholds a scientific and fair position and leads the overall planning of the global anti-epidemic struggle on the front line. Director General Tan Desai and his colleagues worked around the clock, devoted their efforts to the cause of human public health, and made efforts. Their important contributions should be recognized by the international community, and their professional opinions should be respected by all countries in the world.
Earlier, Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in an exclusive interview with the Surging News that the World Health Organization is a global resource shared by all countries and can provide technical support for the response to the new coronavirus and national prevention and control.
Tang Bei believes that the WHO reform process has not been interrupted, but it is necessary to safeguard multilateralism and ensure that developing countries have a fair say in global health governance.
The possibility behind the accusation and the threat come true
However, the US accusations against WHO are not limited to Trump’s “mouth gun”. After that, US Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo have all stated that they will “reassess our funding for the World Health Organization. “Republican Senator Graham said in an interview that unless WHO changes its leadership, as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee ’s Foreign Action Subcommittee, he will not approve WHO in the next appropriation bill.
According to the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) reported on the 9th, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (White House’s Office of Management and Budget) is already developing a plan to reduce US assistance to WHO. A US official said, “What the WHO knows and responds to is directly related to the US government’s response to the epidemic.”
Indeed, the United States is currently under pressure from the outbreak of the new Coronavirus epidemic. The latest data shows that as of April 11, the cumulative number of diagnoses in the United States exceeded 500,000.
The US government facing severe pressure urgently needs to divert public attention. Diao Daming, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of Renmin University of China, said in an interview with the surging news, “The U.S. epidemic continues to intensify. Trump ’s polls rose after the state-level emergency was announced on March 13, but he is now in the first wave. The effect of the operation of pulling up polls has ended, and public dissatisfaction continues to rise. More and more people believe that the epidemic continues to spread in the United States. The government and even Trump himself have an inescapable responsibility, which leads them to have to ‘dump the pot’ , Before they chose China, now they are targeting WHO. “
In the analysis on the 10th, the British “Guardian” gave another possible explanation for the US side to do this. That is, Tan Desai was elected as the Director-General of the World Health Organization in 2017 more because he received the support of Asian and African countries, and the United States led His developed country group was more supportive of his rival, David Nabarro. This election shaped the new structure of WHO, which is obviously not something the United States likes.
However, it does not make much sense at this moment to discuss what the United States will do next, because for some time the United States has been in the direction of reducing support for WHO. According to Xinhua News Agency ’s previous report, the White House in the United States submitted a significant reduction in foreign aid funds by 21% in the federal government budget report for fiscal year 2021. What is particularly interesting is that while countries around the world are fighting together against the new coronavirus epidemic, the White House proposes to drastically reduce the funding provided to the World Health Organization and the global health project funding by 53% and 35%, respectively.
According to the budget report, the financial support provided by the United States to the World Health Organization in FY2021 was reduced from US $ 123 million in the previous fiscal year to US $ 58 million. It is worth noting that the White House ’s budget report significantly reduced funding for WHO and global health projects, which is only part of the US government ’s plan to significantly reduce foreign aid funding for three consecutive years.
At present, the assessed contributions of various countries are still the main source of funding for WHO. According to the information published on the official website of WHO, WHO’s planning budget comes from assessed contributions and voluntary contributions. The fees paid by each Member State are calculated based on the wealth and demographic situation of the country. However, assessed contributions have decreased as a percentage of the total planned budget, and in recent years have accounted for less than a quarter of total WHO funding. The remaining funds were raised through voluntary contributions.
According to the 2016-2017 Budget Execution Report published by the WHO official website, in 2016 and 2017, countries contributed a total of 1.961 billion US dollars, of which 725 million US dollars, accounting for 37%. According to the 2018-2019 annual assessment scale published by WHO, the assessed assessment ratio in the United States is still maintained at 22%, ranking first among all countries.
Diao Daming believes that although the “cut off supply” has practical operability, it is unlikely that the United States will completely cut off assistance to WHO.
Tang Bei pointed out that if the continued reduction of U.S. support for WHO will have a serious impact, WHO is likely to need to reduce the number of jobs and reduce the number of projects in developing countries, which will be the most affected by the least developed countries. of. WHO can alleviate some of the pressure through the “funding dialogue” process and the establishment of new cooperative funds, but objectively, this supplement will be very limited.
However, it is worth noting that after a series of statements by government officials, the United States has not followed suit. CNN wrote in its headline report on April 9 that “Trump pointed the finger at WHO when we needed it most. It is not the right time.”