May 20, 2020
This week’s World Health Assembly videoconference did nothing but provide an opportunity for China to take center stage in the debate about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and for the United States to be paraded as the villain of the piece. As matters now stand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the proposed “review” shifting the responsibility for the spread of the virus from the country that should have contained it in the first place, namely China, to the many nations who were caught by surprise and seriously destabilised by it.
I understand EU diplomats’ commitment to multilateralism. But this time they went too far in giving a platform to a communist regime and a Marxist WHO boss to attack the US, which until now have contributed 75 percent of the organisation’s budget and had created practically all multilateral institutions, including the United Nations after WWII.
Now more than ever, there is a great need for Western solidarity in dealing with the issue of WHO reform if further pandemics are to be avoided. Siding with China and the WHO against US criticism is therefore a losing approach to actually solving matters. No Western diplomat should endorse WHO attacks against the US Administration, since the agency’s largest financial contributor is entitled to freely criticise it when it performs poorly.
This is not to say that the US tendency of withdrawing de facto from most UN key positions in recent years is a good strategy. The latter has created an opportunity for China and its supporters in developing countries to grab the key posts at the FAO, the WHO and other UN agencies, thus rendering these otherwise important UN bodies ineffective (the WHO management of alerts during the current pandemic is a case in point). These days it seems that to get a top job at any UN agency, it is more important how well-connected the candidate is in Beijing than how competent the person really is.
Whilst I agree that the WHO needs to rapidly get rid of Tedros and his team before any meaningful review can take place, permanently cutting the organisation’s funding and abandoning it altogether would be highly counterproductive for the US and for the world as a whole.
Instead, the US can make its crucial financial contribution to the WHO conditional upon approving who gets to be its next directors, as long as the selection is made from trustworthy countries such as Australia, South Korea or Greece, since they have proven their credentials in managing the response to the current pandemic.Spotlight on Geopolitics