US President Donald Trump has decided to freeze funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has accused the international organisation of mismanaging the Covid-19 crisis. The war of words between the WHO and the US President was going on over the last few days and now the US President has made good on his threats to cut funding.
The WHO has often failed to act proactively in times of epidemics. We have seen this happening with regard to H1N1, SARS, Ebola, and we have seen the same happening with regard to Covid-19. There are definitely certain deficiencies on the part of WHO but the allegation of Mr Trump that the WHO chose to be politically correct over saving lives is uncalled for, especially during this time when international cooperation is of utmost importance. The accusation levelled by the United States is that in the initial stages of the pandemic, the WHO chose to be politically correct in order to avoid causing embarrassment to China. The United States believes that the WHO failed to issue timely alerts to other countries and it failed to take timely action to limit the outbreak to China itself. Many countries including India believe that the deficiencies of the WHO did enable the spread of the pandemic but to accuse the WHO of colluding with China is just a pretext to cover the failures of the US government. That is the reason why Trump’s decision has been widely criticised by global leaders for weakening the capacities of the WHO and for undermining international cooperation at a crucial juncture.
This not the first time when Donald Trump has undermined international cooperation. He has a record of pulling the United States out of crucial international organisations including the UNESCO, UN Human Rights Council, The Paris Agreement on Climate Change, The Trans Pacific Partnership, etc.
The decision of Trump to cut funding to the WHO has been met with severe criticism from leaders of European Union, African Union, China, and opposition leaders within the United States. Interestingly, India’s response has been rather neutral. This is quite shocking because India has always been a champion of international cooperation and has always been critical of any attempt to weaken multilateral institutions. But considering that the battle between the US and the WHO is more political in nature, India has preferred to stay out of it. India has tried to present itself as being more preoccupied in domestic efforts to contain the pandemic.
The deficiencies in the WHO need to be addressed through a series of reforms. But to undermine a crucial international organisation when the world is dealing with an unprecedented crisis is simply irresponsible behaviour on the part of the United States. As observed by Bill Gates, there is no world organisation that can replace the WHO as of now.
If we look at the WHO’s funding, it receives funds through a mix of assets and voluntarily contributions by member states. The member states contribute funds according to their wealth and population. India contributes two million dollars to the WHO while China contributes 28.7 million dollars. But the biggest contributors to the WHO are the European Union and the United States. Hence, the decision of Trump to cut funding is going to severely affect the capacities of the WHO at a time when the world needs it the most.