Government Agency

World Health Assembly (WHA)

Location:

Geneva, Switzerland

Formation:

1948

Chari:

Dr. Kerstin Vesna Petric

Type:

Governing Body

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO) which holds an annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHA elects the director general of the WHO, determines policies, and allocates its budget. The WHA currently has 194 members.

In May 2022, the WHA met for the first time in two years and discussed proposals for a controversial international “pandemic treaty.” Proponents claim a treaty will strengthen international defense against pandemics in the future, while critics claim it will reduce national sovereignty and threaten civil liberties.

Director General of the World Health Organization

The World Health Assembly elects the director general of the World Health Organization every five years. Each director general can be reelected once. As of 2022, the director general is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the former minister of health of Ethiopia and the first African in the role. First elected in 2017, Tedros was reelected without opposition in 2022. [1] [2]

Ghebreyesus has been criticized for his close ties to the Chinese government. There has been speculation that China worked behind-the-scenes to get him elected in exchange for influence. [3] At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese government despite its failure to acknowledge person-to-person transmission of the virus until late January, and the censorship of Chinese scientists trying to warn the world. [4] In 2021, the WHO launched an investigation into the origins of the pandemic in cooperation with the Chinese government, but its team had conflicts of interest and the Chinese government severely limited its access. [5] [6]

Ghebreyesus has since been more critical of China and has called for more investigations into the pandemic’s origins. He also criticized China’s “zero COVID” severe lockdown policy. [7] [8]

Status of Taiwan

Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) has repeatedly failed to join the World Health Organization as a full member of the World Health Assembly due to the efforts of the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan has the support of the United States and British governments. Taiwan’s most recent failed application was in May 2022. [9]

From 2008-2016, Taiwan was invited to the WHA as an “observer” under the name, “Chinese Taipei.” [10]

In May 2018, the WHO denied press passes to Taiwanese media to attend the World Health Assembly due to demands from the Chinese government. [11]

2022 Assembly

In May 2022, the World Health Assembly met for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Washington Post, the meeting was beset with controversy surrounding the World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic and its plans to prevent future pandemics. [12]

Pandemic Treaty Proposal

The members of the WHA negotiated a new global agreement on coordinated responses to health crises which some are calling a “pandemic treaty.” Critics like conservative commentator Tucker Carlson claim that an agreement will reduce the sovereignty of the United States. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has vowed not to let President Joe Biden (D) sign an agreement which will give more power to the “corrupt WHO.” [13] On May 31, U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the No WHO Pandemic Preparedness Treaty Without Senate Approval Act. [14]

Defenders of the pandemic treaty claim that it will make the United States and the world better prepared for future pandemics and that critics are engaging in conspiracy theories. [15]

An international agreement backed by the United States, the European Union, and Japan, achieved preliminary success against opposition led by African nations. According to Reuters, a back-channel deal between the factions was reached to reform the proposal to place more emphasis on “equity,” including a greater deployment of resources to support poorer countries. [16]

Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine successfully proposed a resolution in the WHA condemning Russia for destroying health infrastructure during the invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022. The resolution also raised considerations for ejecting Russia from the WHO entirely. Russia and Syria sponsored a counterproposal which would establish mutual blame for the destruction between Russia and Ukraine, but it was defeated. [17]

Funding

The Working Group on Sustainable Financing proposed increasing the WHO’s “assessed” contributions by 50% in response to claims that the WHO has been chronically underfunded. According to Politico, the proposal is expected to pass and be implemented by 2030. [18]

References

  1. Ducharme, Jamie. “World Health Organization Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Never Stops Worrying.” Time. November 21, 2019. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://time.com/5735544/world-health-organization-chief-tedros-adhanom-ghebreyesus-interview/. ^
  2. “World Health Organization chief Tedros easily re-elected for five-year term.” France 24. May 24, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220524-world-health-organization-chief-tedros-easily-re-elected-for-five-year-term. ^
  3. Ghitis, Frida. “Another week, another scandal at the United Nations.” Washington Post. October 25, 2017. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vWXZ2v8NWwEJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/10/25/another-week-another-scandal-at-the-united-nations/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=rs. ^
  4. Rauhala, Emily. “Chinese officials note serious problems in coronavirus response. The World Health Organization keeps praising them.” Washington Post. February 8, 2020. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinese-officials-note-serious-problems-in-coronavirus-response-the-world-health-organization-keeps-praising-them/2020/02/08/b663dd7c-4834-11ea-91ab-ce439aa5c7c1_story.html. ^
  5. “WHO COVID-19 Investigation Is Tainted by Conflict of Interest, Says AHF.” Business Wire. February 9, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210209005820/en/WHO-COVID-19-Investigation-Is-Tainted-by-Conflict-of-Interest-Says-AHF. ^
  6. Felter, Claire. “Will the World Ever Solve the Mystery of COVID-19’s Origin?” Council on Foreign Relations. November 3, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/will-world-ever-solve-mystery-covid-19s-origin ^
  7. Neuman, Scott. “WHO launches a new group to study the origins of the coronavirus.” NPR. October 13, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/10/13/1045647249/who-covid-investigation-china-wuhan-lab-leak. ^
  8. Kuo, Lily. “WHO chief calls for end of ‘zero covid’ in China, so Beijing censors him.” Washington Post. May 11, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lUGJ9Q0pDhsJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/11/china-tedros-zero-covid-unsustainable-censored/+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=rs. ^
  9. “Taiwan Fails in Bid to Join WHO Assembly After China Pressure.” U.S. News. May 23, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-05-23/taiwans-efforts-to-join-who-assembly-fail. ^
  10. deLisle, Jacques. “Taiwan in the World Health Assembly: A Victory, with Limits.” Brookings. May 13, 2009. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/taiwan-in-the-world-health-assembly-a-victory-with-limits/#cancel. ^
  11. “UN: World Health Organization Shuns Taiwan and Its Journalists.” Freedom House. May 15, 2018. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/article/un-world-health-organization-shuns-taiwan-and-its-journalists. ^
  12. Taylor, Adam. “Global health talks clouded by conspiracy theories about pandemic treaty.” Washington Post. May 22, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4BDjWabW2wkJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/22/wha-who-pandemic-treaty/+&cd=25&hl=en&ct=clnk. ^
  13. Taylor, Adam. “Global health talks clouded by conspiracy theories about pandemic treaty.” Washington Post. May 22, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4BDjWabW2wkJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/22/wha-who-pandemic-treaty/+&cd=25&hl=en&ct=clnk. ^
  14. “Lankford, Johnson, Colleagues Protect American Sovereignty Against World Health Organization.” James Lankford. May 31, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.lankford.senate.gov/news/press-releases/lankford-johnson-colleagues-protect-american-sovereignty-against-world-health-organization. ^
  15. Taylor, Adam. “Global health talks clouded by conspiracy theories about pandemic treaty.” Washington Post. May 22, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4BDjWabW2wkJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/22/wha-who-pandemic-treaty/+&cd=25&hl=en&ct=clnk. ^
  16. Farge, Emma. “First steps in reforming global health emergency rules agreed at WHO meeting.” Reuters. May 27, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/first-steps-reforming-global-health-emergency-rules-agreed-who-meeting-sources-2022-05-27/. ^
  17. “Russia’s status as WHO member under threat after World Health Assembly vote.” The BMJ. May 31, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.bmj.com/content/377/bmj.o1371. ^
  18. Furlong, Ashleigh. “4 things to watch as countries meet for the World Health Assembly.” Politico. May 20, 2022. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.politico.eu/article/4-things-watch-world-health-assembly-2022-who-geneva/. ^
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