While the UN is celebrating 75 years of its foundation, it’s also facing with an unprecedented level of criticism from all corners of the planet . Although the criticism is directed on varied issues, the foremost common amongst them is undoubtedly the lack of the international health governance body – the planet Health Organisation (WHO). The blame of the issues that the planet is currently facing had been placed on the shoulders of the WHO, because it did not predict to the planet the precise capability of the coronavirus in disrupting the planet economy.
Since its post-war founding, the United Nations agency has garnered both praise and criticism for its response to international public health crises, just like the current COVID crisis. it’s often said by many world leaders, including our PM, that this critical situation of the planet could are prevented if the WHO would have more active within the beginning. China alerted WHO officials of a growing outbreak within the city of Wuhan on New Year’s Eve , 2019 but the WHO declared a PHEIC (public health emergency) just one month later. This had highlighted the passive situation of the agency in handling bigger emergency problems. Only in March, after the virus had spread to quite 100 countries, the WHO declared the outbreak an epidemic . While such a designation generally doesn’t affect how the WHO addresses a crisis, it amplifies the decision for countries to develop their own emergency response plans. It also helps the countries to be mindful and begin testing their foreign arrivals and stop the pandemic to succeed in the community transmission stage.
WHO’s a response to COVID?
After it had been made conscious of a growing unknown epidemic within the city of Wuhan at the top of the last year, it drew up a strategic preparedness and response plan that originally involved $675 million in funding from donors. However, by April 9, it had received just over half that quantity . because it has wiped out past health crises, the WHO is currently providing medical and technical guidance as its experts still investigate and learn more about the virus, also as coordinating with world leaders on their national responses. it’s also distributing critical supplies to member states, including many diagnostic tests and private protective equipment for health-care workers, and participating in global efforts to develop a vaccine.
How the WHO works during such health emergencies?
The WHO relies on its member states to watch and report crises during a timely fashion. But many countries have historically been hesitant to report outbreaks, actually because they’re scared of economic repercussions. In 2003, for instance , China denied for months that it had been suffering an epidemic of the communicable disease that was eventually identified as SARS. During a PHEIC, the WHO issues nonbinding guidance to its members on how they ought to answer the emergency, including on potential travel and trade restrictions. The WHO has hoped this is able to encourage affected countries to report outbreaks during a timely manner. In an emergency, the WHO also spells out treatment guidelines, hoping to assist prevent panics.
What the WHO has done?
Today, the WHO monitors and coordinates activities concerning many health-related issues, including genetically modified foods, global climate change , tobacco and drug use, and road safety. WHO’s top priorities are malaria, women’s and children’s health, tuberculosis, VD , nutrition and environmental sanitation. WHO’s work has since grown to also cover health problems that weren’t even known in 1948, including relatively new diseases like HIV/AIDS. The eradication of smallpox – a disease which had maimed and killed millions – within the late 1970s is one among WHO’s proudest achievements. Five million children are today walking, who would otherwise are paralysed, and quite 1.5 million childhood deaths are averted thanks to the worldwide Polio Eradication Initiative. Since its launch in 1988, the worldwide Polio Eradication Initiative has reduced the amount of cases of polio by quite 99% – from quite 3,50,000 per annum in 1988 to 1956 in 2006. WHO is functioning to make sure people have universal access to life-saving drugs. they’re also involved in many such activities that aim towards eradication of these disease from the face of the world .
Criticizing the role of WHO
The pandemic and therefore the controversies related to it have created an instantaneous crisis for the WHO as COVID-19 rages on. Despite doing all such goodwill actions, it’s been criticised on multiple fronts :-
1. Many experts have raised concerns about the agency’s deference to Beijing and increasing Chinese influence over the institution. This critique holds that WHO had the power to question China’s handling of the outbreak in Wuhan in order that the organization could better prepare the planet for a dangerous disease—but that WHO did not act decisively.
2. It did not exercise global health leadership and instead became a tool of Chinese politics, power, and propaganda. The criticism raises questions on WHO’s authority to challenge states during serious outbreaks for the great of worldwide health.
3. China’s political needs overwhelmed WHO’s desire to avoid politics in working with China within the interests of worldwide health, leaving the organization susceptible to questions on its interactions with China. the shortage of convergence between U.S. interests and WHO’s actions left WHO exposed to attacks that intensified later within the year
4. WHO turned a blind eye to China’s dissembling about its outbreak suggest that WHO did not act on information it had from other sources, including the failure to share that information with other countries. Trump has been particularly critical of the agency, announcing an end to the U.S. relationship with the WHO.
5. Travel restrictions that countries implemented to counter COVID-19 prompted arguments that these restrictions violated the IHR, violations that the WHO didn’t probe despite having authority to try to to so.
6. Complaints also arose about WHO’s silence within the face of the human rights consequences of harsh government responses, like mandatory quarantine and isolation measures.
7. Many critics have faulted the WHO for slow and poorly coordinated responses to previous outbreaks, just like the 2014 Ebola outbreak, during which it waited five months before declaring a PHEIC. For providing immediate help to countries, the organization instituted several reforms, including the creation of a reserve force of public doctors and a $100 million emergency fund.
8. Another problem is that the political friction between its headquarters and its six regional offices, which critics say have enjoyed an excessive amount of autonomy. to say its authority over these regional power bases, the WHO said it’ll require staff to rotate among posts round the world.
Praising the WHO
. The organization’s sharing of data and its attempts to counter online misinformation and disinformation have earned widespread praise. A team of WHO “mythbusters” worked with search and media companies like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Tencent, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube et al. to counter the spread of rumours.
The core of the difficulty
• Second, the IHR grants the WHO director-general the facility to declare a public health emergency of international concern, albeit the state experiencing the outbreak objects.
• Third, the IHR gives WHO the authority to strengthen the need that a state party shall provide the scientific and public health justification for trade or travel restrictions that don’t conform to WHO recommendations.
• Fourth, the IHR requires states parties to guard human rights when managing disease events.
• Fifth, the International Health Regulations stipulates that countries shouldn’t penalize nations that disclose they need a dangerous disease outbreak by imposing travel or trade restrictions on the affected country, like when many countries stop visas for people from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola crisis.
Why there was a requirement for a worldwide health institution?
Created in 1948 as a part of the United Nations , the WHO features a broad mandate to guide and coordinate international health policy. Its primary activities include developing partnerships with other global health initiatives, conducting research, setting norms, providing technical support, and monitoring health trends round the world. the target of WHO is ambitious, stated as “the attainment by all peoples of the very best possible level of health,” with a way broader definition of the term – health. within the latter half the 19th century, after several severe cholera epidemics, a series of international sanitary conferences were held in Europe. The League of countries established a health organization in 1920, and there have been regional bodies also . But the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 marked a period of aggressive internationalism and international organization-building within the field of worldwide health governance, through the formation of the WHO.
The governance structure of the WHO
The work of WHO is especially administered by a secretariat and secretariat staff are led by a director-general who add areas identified by an executive board and ratified by an assembly. the planet Health Assembly is that the main administration of WHO. It’s made from delegates from all member nations, currently totalling 192. The assembly meets in May annually , usually at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO delegates set the agency’s agenda and approve an aspirational budget annually at the planet Health Assembly. The director-general is liable for raising the lion’s share of funds from donors.
Funding of the institution
WHO’s funding comes from two sources: assessed contributions from member states and voluntary contributions from members et al. . the foremost recent two-year goal of funding was about $4.4 billion. About 20 percent of the budget comes from mandatory dues paid by members; the remainder is formed from voluntary donations. the highest voluntary contributors include the us , the uk , and therefore the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past decade, the WHO has become increasingly hooked in to voluntary contributions, which puts pressure on the organization to align its goals with those of its donors. as an example , in 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump said he would suspend funding to the WHO which his administration would launch a review into whether the body mismanaged the crisis.
Challenges for the WHO
The WHO released an inventory of top 10 global healthcare challenges within the coming decade. All the challenges therein list demand a response from quite just the health sector. With the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals quickly approaching, the United Nations General Assembly has underscored that subsequent 10 years must be the “decade of action”. The WHO also faces other set of challenges which also must be discussed –
• Antimicrobial resistance is spreading globally and should threaten the power to treat common infectious illnesses.
• there’s a requirement to specialise in the countries’ capacity to detect, investigate and report on communicable diseases and health threats.
• It must regain the trust of the worldwide community within the organisation’s ability to manage global health crises and disease outbreaks.
• the likelihood of collaborating closely with national health authorities is advantageous, while the organisation must also challenge the authorities when necessary.
• the planet Health Organization also needs support from non-state actors to market public health measures to combat several lifestyle diseases.
• the bulk of the organisation’s experts are recruited regionally. A worldwide organisation should recruit globally so as to accumulate employees with the simplest possible competence and knowledge . Rotation and mobility of staff is vital to making sure breadth of experience and professionalism.
• Fixed contributions from member states constitute but half-hour of the budget. the most funding comes from voluntary contributions from major nations which depend upon their relationship with WHO. Securing more predictable funding is crucial for its long-term functioning.
• It needs a robust leader with political and diplomatic flair who can make necessary decisions for adopting reforms within the organization
Revisiting the previous decade
WHO leadership during the SARS pandemic in 2003 was an example to be considered for its activeness and its decisiveness. The then WHO Director-General, Gro Brundtland, confronted China over its SARS outbreak and, without approval from the countries concerned, issued warnings against visit SARS-affected places. additionally , WHO took the lead in efforts to advance scientific understanding of the SARS coronavirus, develop public health strategies, and establish clinical treatment protocols. In adopting the IHR within the aftermath of SARS, WHO member states gave WHO unprecedented authority vis-à-vis state sovereignty. After the IHR entered into force in 2007 the planet faced the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009. The then WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, declared the world’s first public health emergency of international concern and issued recommendations that, among other things, advised against trade and travel measures. WHO coordinated scientific, medical, and public health efforts to know the H1N1 virus, share information, treat people, and develop a vaccine. The response underscored the importance of WHO’s leadership and functional capabilities and therefore the IHR’s role in global health governance. But concerns began after the H1N1 pandemic as WHO and its member states struggled from the damage done by the good Recession.
Conclusion In the wake of SARS, WHO member states empowered WHO to challenge sovereignty—the centrepiece of the state-centric, “Westphalian” international order—in the interests of protecting global health. Today, within the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s most powerful countries are demanding that WHO follow their respective sovereign interests, which shows the rearward movement of the Systeme International d’Unites . the extreme damage that the COVID pandemic had caused to the planet health governance would be seen in subsequent time, as seen after the H1N1 crisis. this is often a time to not criticize the institution but to further strengthen it with enhanced cooperation and a vibrant leadership.