America Leaves WHO, what is next?
The US President may be entitled as “The withdrawal President” citing America’s recent withdrawals from International organisations like UNESCO and UN Human Rights Council in October 2017 and June 2018 respectively and treaties like Paris Treaty and Open Skies Treaty. The US pulled out its troops from Afghanistan and annulled the US Nuclear Treaty with Iran.
Now Donald Trump astonished everyone with his new declaration, terminating America’s relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in protest over its handling of the Coronavirus. Trump said that the WHO has failed to make greatly needed reforms and the US funds will be redirected to those worldwide and deserving global public health needs. Donald Trump was irked by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhnom’s appreciation for China. This is the hidden but known reason behind this move.
Let’s have a look at how this move will have an impact on the WHO, America and the whole world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) was formed in 1948 and by now it has 194 member states and two associate members. Its activities range from promoting polio vaccine, supporting child nutrition to playing a leadership role during public health emergencies. Its budget for the years 2020 and 2021 is $4.8 billion making $2.4 billion per year. Annual donation from its member states constitutes 51% of the total funding through assessment fees and voluntary contributions. It also receives contributions from NGO’s, philanthropists' groups like Gates Foundation, National Philanthropic trusts etc and others like European Union, World Bank and many more.
20% of its budget is funded by the US i.e. $237 million as assessed fees and $656 million as voluntary contribution for specific programs like controlling and preventing outbreaks, tuberculosis, HIV many more
Can the US pull back from the WHO?
There is still obscurity in the fact that how the US will do it. The President hasn’t got the legal authority to terminate its relationship without one-year notice and full payment of assessed fees prior to its withdrawal. Even during the hard times like the Ebola crisis in 2014-2015, the US never left the WHO although it failed to accomplish its duty. Experts and officials denounced Trump’s move as ‘Disastrous’ and ‘Suicidal’. America’s move will unambiguously affect the global response to Covid-19 pandemic.
The US withdrawal will be a major setback to global health priorities. The five-year polio endgame plan to eradicate it fully by the WHO will be affected since it was funded significantly by the US. The US was working for decades to eradicate polio worldwide and wild viruses from two countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan and many more long-term plans. Many countries consider the WHO as an extension of their health ministry which gives credible advice and guidance. Future of US bureaucrats working in the WHO is also dubious.
There is a probability of countries leaving the WHO, following the US example citing that the WHO is no more serving their best interests. This can end up having two factions; one being led by China through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through Europe and Africa and with the WHO and one being led by the US with the Global Fund and PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
The US termination will forge a political vacuum and this will be a political win for China. When Trump first announced a fund freezing in the Mid-April, China Pledged for an additional amount of $30 million along with $2 billion for fighting Covid-19 pandemic.
It is not China alone who upped their contribution. European countries, Gates Foundation etc also enhanced the contribution.
Interestingly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will become the biggest funder of the organisation after the US withdrawal and first private foundation to be in that position.
These are all conjectures that we are talking about because such withdrawal of the US from any international organisation like the WHO are preposterous in this time of misfortune. We cannot come to a conclusion since Trump’s statements are mostly paradoxical in nature. The whole world is deeply sceptical about the US declaration and looking forward for a pragmatic approach to dealing with this crisis.