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On the US threat to WHO

Trump is resorting to his practice of finding scapegoats for his unforgivable failures.

Dr S Faizi 01 Jun 2020

WHO

US President Trump’s relentless campaign against WHO and his decision to stop meeting the financial commitment to WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic is a crime against humanity. Yet, the world need not worry, WHO will be a better place if the US eventually quits it. The US has always been looking for opportunities to throttle all the democratic arms of the UN system.

As the US has become the world’s new hotspot for COVID-19 and the failure of the Trump administration as well as the country’s profit-driven health care system become glaringly obvious, Trump is resorting to his practice of finding scapegoats for his unforgivable failures. Trump cannot spell out what was wrong with WHO, in fact he tweeted on 24 January appreciating “China’s efforts and transparency” when US already had two positive cases; the only discernible point he mentioned was the omission of WHO to support his 31 January decision restricting travel from China on account of the virus.

Trump was alluding to a WHO recommendation on international traffic in the context of COVID-19 addressed to the entire community of nations, issued on 27 February. In this temporary recommendation WHO mentioned, “In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.” It added that travel restrictions may be justified at the start of an outbreak as they may allow time for the preparedness measures. This advisory was not US specific, but to the international community, and issued about a month after the US decision to restrict travels from China.

Trump then made the sweeping allegation that WHO is China-centric, again without giving any specifics. WHO’s policy decisions are made by its World Health Assembly comprised of 194 member countries, and its business is conducted based on a set of democratic rules of procedure. It is often the case that the decisions adopted by WHA are fair and balanced due to the majority enjoyed by the developing countries, which is a point of concern for the US, as with most other democratic UN fora. However, if the WHO secretariat, i.e. the bureaucracy, is biased towards any country that is the US. Most of the procurement of supplies of medicines, equipment and services by or through WHO is from the US. Public health policy experts hold the concern that the US multinational pharmaceutical companies lobby with the WHO bureaucracy to sell their products and to influence health policy decisions in favour of their commercial interests. It is actually welcome that Trump has started this debate on bias.

Trump’s personal diatribe against the WHO director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus is appalling but not surprising given Trump's racist proclivity. Tedros, an eminent public health expert and former health minister of Ethiopia, was elected by the World Health Assembly in 2017, in an election that was termed ‘more transparent than ever before’ by Lancet. WHO has been playing an invaluable role in managing the COVID-19 crisis globally through increasing understanding of the disease, coordinating with multiple countries, setting protocols, promoting cooperative research, securing supplies to needy countries even beyond its resource limitation and collating and analysing global disease data and issuing common advisories. The world would have been much worse without WHO in a critical time like this.

Whereas what Trump did in the ‘global spirit’ was outright piracy. A shipment of 400,000 protective equipment from China meant for Tamil Nadu was forcefully diverted to the US and this followed such forceful diversions to the US of shipments scheduled for Germany, France and Canada. The political leaderships these countries protested the devious method of the US while the Indian government kept strange but understandable silence. As if the damage caused by Trump in having his fan Modi organise a gathering of 100,000 people in Ahmedabad to please him on 24 February, a week after the WHO advisory against public gatherings was not enough. And Gujarat, as the second most affected state has already lost 214 lives and has 4395 confirmed cases of infection as of writing.

Financial throttling

US decision refusing to pay the mandatory annual dues to WHO reflects the US’ disregard for the multilateral democratic organisations. UN organisations are run on mandatory annual assessed contributions paid by the member states based on an agreed scale of assessment which is relative to the wealth and population of each country. Accordingly, US has to pay 22 percent of the annual budget of the UN agency, China pays 12 percent, Japan 8 percent, EU 30 percent and so on. The US is a regular defaulter to WHO as they are to the UN secretariat. For the year 2019 the US paid only one third of its assessed contribution. When a member country fails to pay dues equivalent to the full contributions for the preceding two years that country loses the voting right in the organisation as the Article 19 of the UN Charter stipulates. The voluntary assessed contributions are not covered by this provision though.

The US efforts to financially hurt the UN system is not new. They have been consistently refusing to pay the dues to the UN secretariat on flimsy grounds. The US payment of dues to the UN is default by $381 million for the year 2018, and for 2019 it is even greater, while most of the low-income countries have been duly paying the statutory contribution. It is not only WHO that the US is targeting; they quit UNESCO in 2018, as they did in 1984 but returned in 2003 when they realised that the boycott could not cause any dent to the organisation.

While US’ assessed contribution is 22 per cent, over 35 percent of the WHO expenditure ends up in the US. About 18 per cent of the WHO staff is from the US, close to 32 percent of the WHO procurements of medicines, equipment and services are from the US, meaning that the US takes back much more than it gives to WHO. And without the intimidating voice of the US the proceedings of the decision-making bodies of WHO will be a smooth and creative affair. In any case the US is outside many of the global democratic multilateral initiatives- the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, International Criminal Court, Basel Convention, etc.

Independent investigation warranted: SARS-CoV-2 and HIV

US President and Secretary of State have alleged that the virus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China, and asked for an international investigation. A Chinese diplomat has alleged US to be the source of origin of the virus.

Regardless of these claims, an early research paper on the genomic characterisation of the virus published in  Lancet by a team of Chinese scientists, and a US NIH funded study by a US team published in the Journal of Virology, both on 29 January 2020, found the new virus to be genetically closely related to the SARS coronavirus. Yet another paper by Chinese scientists,  first published on the website www.biorxivorg.org on 23 January and subsequently  in Nature on 3 February found SARS-CoV-2 to be 96 percent identical to bat coronavirus at the genome level. However, one may question these studies and provide fresh scientific data and interpretation, hence it is important to have an international investigation to settle the issue.

Similarly, the US synthesis of HIV was alleged by South African President Thabo Mbeki when he was in office. This allegation was later repeated by the late Kenyan Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, though she had to retract the statement following US protest. In 1990 two German molecular biologists, Dr J Segal and Dr L Segal, published a two part article in the magazine Top Secret in which they argued that the HTLV III ( HIV was also called so then) was developed through genetic manipulation in a P5 secret laboratory  of the Pentagon at Fort Detrick, US in 1977, under the leadership of the eminent molecular biologist Dr RC Gallo, who was director of NIH. The article claims to present evidence from the papers of Dr Gallo, and others and provides the trajectory of the research developments. An anonymous US scientist published a detailed letter in Patriot daily on 17 July 1984 forewarning about an impending spread of AIDS in South Asia, as part of a US design.

This argument has however been written off as a USSR conspiracy. But like the truth about SARS-CoV-2, it is important to clear the air about the origin of HIV. Therefore, an international committee of independent experts, facilitated by WHO, may be established to investigate the truth about these twin issues, so that the conspiracy theories can be laid to rest. (1474 words)

……………….

The author is an ecologist specialising in international policy affairs, and a UN negotiator.

On the US threat to WHO

Trump is resorting to his practice of finding scapegoats for his unforgivable failures.

WHO

US President Trump’s relentless campaign against WHO and his decision to stop meeting the financial commitment to WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic is a crime against humanity. Yet, the world need not worry, WHO will be a better place if the US eventually quits it. The US has always been looking for opportunities to throttle all the democratic arms of the UN system.

As the US has become the world’s new hotspot for COVID-19 and the failure of the Trump administration as well as the country’s profit-driven health care system become glaringly obvious, Trump is resorting to his practice of finding scapegoats for his unforgivable failures. Trump cannot spell out what was wrong with WHO, in fact he tweeted on 24 January appreciating “China’s efforts and transparency” when US already had two positive cases; the only discernible point he mentioned was the omission of WHO to support his 31 January decision restricting travel from China on account of the virus.

Trump was alluding to a WHO recommendation on international traffic in the context of COVID-19 addressed to the entire community of nations, issued on 27 February. In this temporary recommendation WHO mentioned, “In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.” It added that travel restrictions may be justified at the start of an outbreak as they may allow time for the preparedness measures. This advisory was not US specific, but to the international community, and issued about a month after the US decision to restrict travels from China.

Trump then made the sweeping allegation that WHO is China-centric, again without giving any specifics. WHO’s policy decisions are made by its World Health Assembly comprised of 194 member countries, and its business is conducted based on a set of democratic rules of procedure. It is often the case that the decisions adopted by WHA are fair and balanced due to the majority enjoyed by the developing countries, which is a point of concern for the US, as with most other democratic UN fora. However, if the WHO secretariat, i.e. the bureaucracy, is biased towards any country that is the US. Most of the procurement of supplies of medicines, equipment and services by or through WHO is from the US. Public health policy experts hold the concern that the US multinational pharmaceutical companies lobby with the WHO bureaucracy to sell their products and to influence health policy decisions in favour of their commercial interests. It is actually welcome that Trump has started this debate on bias.

Trump’s personal diatribe against the WHO director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus is appalling but not surprising given Trump's racist proclivity. Tedros, an eminent public health expert and former health minister of Ethiopia, was elected by the World Health Assembly in 2017, in an election that was termed ‘more transparent than ever before’ by Lancet. WHO has been playing an invaluable role in managing the COVID-19 crisis globally through increasing understanding of the disease, coordinating with multiple countries, setting protocols, promoting cooperative research, securing supplies to needy countries even beyond its resource limitation and collating and analysing global disease data and issuing common advisories. The world would have been much worse without WHO in a critical time like this.

Whereas what Trump did in the ‘global spirit’ was outright piracy. A shipment of 400,000 protective equipment from China meant for Tamil Nadu was forcefully diverted to the US and this followed such forceful diversions to the US of shipments scheduled for Germany, France and Canada. The political leaderships these countries protested the devious method of the US while the Indian government kept strange but understandable silence. As if the damage caused by Trump in having his fan Modi organise a gathering of 100,000 people in Ahmedabad to please him on 24 February, a week after the WHO advisory against public gatherings was not enough. And Gujarat, as the second most affected state has already lost 214 lives and has 4395 confirmed cases of infection as of writing.

Financial throttling

US decision refusing to pay the mandatory annual dues to WHO reflects the US’ disregard for the multilateral democratic organisations. UN organisations are run on mandatory annual assessed contributions paid by the member states based on an agreed scale of assessment which is relative to the wealth and population of each country. Accordingly, US has to pay 22 percent of the annual budget of the UN agency, China pays 12 percent, Japan 8 percent, EU 30 percent and so on. The US is a regular defaulter to WHO as they are to the UN secretariat. For the year 2019 the US paid only one third of its assessed contribution. When a member country fails to pay dues equivalent to the full contributions for the preceding two years that country loses the voting right in the organisation as the Article 19 of the UN Charter stipulates. The voluntary assessed contributions are not covered by this provision though.

The US efforts to financially hurt the UN system is not new. They have been consistently refusing to pay the dues to the UN secretariat on flimsy grounds. The US payment of dues to the UN is default by $381 million for the year 2018, and for 2019 it is even greater, while most of the low-income countries have been duly paying the statutory contribution. It is not only WHO that the US is targeting; they quit UNESCO in 2018, as they did in 1984 but returned in 2003 when they realised that the boycott could not cause any dent to the organisation.

While US’ assessed contribution is 22 per cent, over 35 percent of the WHO expenditure ends up in the US. About 18 per cent of the WHO staff is from the US, close to 32 percent of the WHO procurements of medicines, equipment and services are from the US, meaning that the US takes back much more than it gives to WHO. And without the intimidating voice of the US the proceedings of the decision-making bodies of WHO will be a smooth and creative affair. In any case the US is outside many of the global democratic multilateral initiatives- the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, International Criminal Court, Basel Convention, etc.

Independent investigation warranted: SARS-CoV-2 and HIV

US President and Secretary of State have alleged that the virus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China, and asked for an international investigation. A Chinese diplomat has alleged US to be the source of origin of the virus.

Regardless of these claims, an early research paper on the genomic characterisation of the virus published in  Lancet by a team of Chinese scientists, and a US NIH funded study by a US team published in the Journal of Virology, both on 29 January 2020, found the new virus to be genetically closely related to the SARS coronavirus. Yet another paper by Chinese scientists,  first published on the website www.biorxivorg.org on 23 January and subsequently  in Nature on 3 February found SARS-CoV-2 to be 96 percent identical to bat coronavirus at the genome level. However, one may question these studies and provide fresh scientific data and interpretation, hence it is important to have an international investigation to settle the issue.

Similarly, the US synthesis of HIV was alleged by South African President Thabo Mbeki when he was in office. This allegation was later repeated by the late Kenyan Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, though she had to retract the statement following US protest. In 1990 two German molecular biologists, Dr J Segal and Dr L Segal, published a two part article in the magazine Top Secret in which they argued that the HTLV III ( HIV was also called so then) was developed through genetic manipulation in a P5 secret laboratory  of the Pentagon at Fort Detrick, US in 1977, under the leadership of the eminent molecular biologist Dr RC Gallo, who was director of NIH. The article claims to present evidence from the papers of Dr Gallo, and others and provides the trajectory of the research developments. An anonymous US scientist published a detailed letter in Patriot daily on 17 July 1984 forewarning about an impending spread of AIDS in South Asia, as part of a US design.

This argument has however been written off as a USSR conspiracy. But like the truth about SARS-CoV-2, it is important to clear the air about the origin of HIV. Therefore, an international committee of independent experts, facilitated by WHO, may be established to investigate the truth about these twin issues, so that the conspiracy theories can be laid to rest. (1474 words)

……………….

The author is an ecologist specialising in international policy affairs, and a UN negotiator.

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