A motion approved by the organization’s assembly was sponsored by the European Union, which called for an independent investigation into the international response to the pandemic. At the same time, the bloc reiterated its support for WHO after threats from the United States. The World Health Assembly, a decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), approved on Tuesday (19/05) a resolution to start an investigation of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the role of the UN-linked organism. The resolution met no objection from the 194 member states of the assembly.

World Health Assembly in Geneva

Photo: DW / Deutsche Welle

The resolution, approved during the WHO annual conference, was sponsored by the European Union. In a statement on behalf of the bloc, the EU called for an “independent and comprehensive assessment” of the international response to the pandemic.

On the other hand, the EU expressed support for WHO on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump again threatened to cut his country’s funding to the body, this time permanently.

“This is the time for solidarity, it is not the time to point the finger or undermine multilateral cooperation,” Virginie Batti-Henriksson, a spokesman for European Union foreign affairs, told reporters.

The resolution did not immediately set a deadline for the investigation, but WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the assembly on Monday that he considered an independent assessment at an “opportune time” to be welcome.

Ghebreyesus also said that the pandemic “threatens to tear the fabric of international cooperation”, but that WHO will continue to lead the global fight against the coronavirus.

Speaking at the summit on Tuesday, the WHO chief also thanked “the many member states that expressed their support and solidarity” to the organization.

Ghebreyesus did not directly mention the new ultimatum given by U.S. President Donald Trump, which threatened to permanently suspend funding if the organization does not undergo reforms in the next 30 days.

“We want to be accountable more than anyone,” said Ghebreyesus.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the aim of the investigation into the international response to the pandemic should be to identify improvements, not to look for culprits.

“Together, we emphasize the central role of the World Health Organization in international health management,” said Maas in a statement. “It is important to strengthen WHO, support it and prepare it even better for the future. The resolution highlights that, in the current situation, acute crisis management is the priority. In a subsequent step, WHO is planning a independent assessment of the global response to covid-19. “

Trump blames WHO and China

Trump, who had already temporarily suspended US funding for WHO, published a letter on Monday in which he called the organization “China’s puppet” and demanded “major substantial improvements in the next 30 days”.

WHO promised to work out a direct response to Trump’s letter later on Tuesday. Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel was among the European leaders who expressed their support for WHO at the assembly before the publication of Trump’s comments. According to Merkel, “WHO is the legitimate global institution that can bring everyone together”.

The research will not look specifically at WHO, but the global response of all governments and international bodies.

Before the US funding freeze, Americans accounted for the largest individual share of resources sent to WHO. If the United States ends up adopting a permanent freeze, China is likely to fill part of the gap.

US criticizes wording on abortion and patents

The United States also rejected the tone of the World Health Organization resolution on the pandemic, although it did not block the adoption of the document at the summit.

Specifically, Washington said it “dissociated” from stretches that guarantee sexual and reproductive health care during the pandemic, which was interpreted by Americans as supporting abortion. Americans have yet to reject another segment by pointing out that poorer countries can challenge intellectual property rules, if necessary, in order to obtain medicines in the midst of the emergency.

“The United States believes in legal protections for the unborn child and rejects any interpretation that requires any state to facilitate access to abortion,” pointed out US diplomats.

They also said that the sections on waiving intellectual rights send “the wrong message to innovators, who will be essential to the solution that the whole world needs”.

The excerpt criticized by the United States states that flexibilities must be applied to ensure that the patents for a possible vaccine do not become an obstacle for everyone to have access to the product. The American opposition in this regard contradicted its ally Brazilian government, which had negotiated the inclusion of the stretch in partnership with the Europeans.

Russia accuses Trump

A senior Russian official also expressed support for WHO and China on Monday night, criticizing Trump’s threat.

“Russia is against any fabricated investigation and unfounded accusations. We are categorically against it,” Valentina Matviyenko, president of the Russian parliament’s upper house, told the Russian news agency Interfax.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told DW that Trump’s threat to withdraw funds from WHO is “irresponsible” and reflects the “chaotic” nature of his government.

“Trump is very quick to criticize others, while most of us agree that his domestic policies are chaotic,” said Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

However, Rudd acknowledged that both WHO and China “have legitimate questions to answer” and said that China “is not free of responsibility”.

JPS / afp / ap / rt / ots


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Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster and produces independent journalism in 30 languages.