By Zhong Sheng
Solidarity and cooperation are what countries should go after in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at the critical moment, the U.S. announced to suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), ducking its duty and obligation to safeguard global public health security. The practice tramples on the principle of multilateralism and totally goes against the humanitarian spirit.
The damage of the so-called “American exceptionalism” threw a wet blanket on the world’s joint efforts to combat the novel coronavirus and drew wide criticism from the international society.
It is “not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Josep Borrell, European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy recently said on social media that there is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the U.S. government decision to suspend funding to WHO is deeply regrettable.
When the COVID-19 pandemic is posing severe challenges, countries with vulnerable public health systems are in dire need of assistance. Therefore, to ensure that the WHO fully executes its duties is a common responsibility of all countries in the world. Developing countries would be the largest victims if the UN health body is crippled.
Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Richard Horton called the U.S. decision “a crime against humanity.”
The White House’s defunding also triggered resistance and condemnation in the U.S. The president of the American Medical Association Patrice Harris said in a statement that halting funding to the WHO is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also blasted the decision, saying it is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.
The attempts of the White House to undermine the WHO and its leadership in the middle of a pandemic are “dangerous and totally inappropriate”, Stephen Morrison was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. The defunding is the latest move from a series of actions taken by the U.S. against multilateral organizations, said CNN in a recent article.
More and more people are coming to realize that the U.S., shifting blames to the WHO and politicizing the pandemic, is totally unjustified.
As the most authoritative and professional international organization in the sphere of global public health, the WHO plays an irreplaceable role in coping with global public health crisis. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the organization has actively assumed responsibility, and called on countries to attach high importance to and prepare for the disease at an early date. Its coordination largely facilitated international cooperation on COVID-19 response, and won wide recognition and high appraisal from the international community. The timeline recently released by the WHO introducing its efforts to combat COVID-19 forcefully proved its achievements and efficiency.
With limited, constantly shifting information to go on, the WHO showed an early, consistent determination to treat the new contagion like the threat it would become, and to persuade others to do the same, said New York Times in a recent editorial. A close look at the record shows that the WHO acted with greater foresight and speed than many national governments, and more than it had shown in previous epidemics, the article added.
The mainstream of multilateralism and collaboration shall never be changed in the battle against the pandemic. A recent resolution of the UN Assembly stressed the central role of the WHO in the global health and economic crisis, and the G20 extraordinary virtual leaders’ summit on COVID-19 also issued a statement to support the WHO in assuming its responsibility in coordinating global COVID-19 response and further enhance the organization’s roles.
The international society is generally in support of the WHO. The COVID-19 pandemic is currently accelerating its spread globally, and the WHO needs substantial capital to advance vaccine development, maintain protective supplies for medical staff, and offer assistance to countries with vulnerable health systems.
Lately, China, the UK, and Finland, as well as organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have successively donated to the WHO. Besides, many countries voiced support for the organization for its important role in fighting the pandemic. These all indicate the global common aspiration for multilateral cooperation.
Some politicians in the U.S. are trying to impede the global efforts to defeat the virus, but American citizens and people around the world won’t allow them. The unscrupulousness to pass the buck and practices to undermine international rules will neither scare off the virus nor the international society. Viruses respect no borders, and no country is able to sit back and watch when COVID-19 stays rampant. Only by joint efforts can the world defeat it, and the U.S. shall take its responsibility as a major country.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)