You know the cartoon I mean? It’s the one with the IPCC scientist standing at the front of an auditorium in 1990 warning that “this climate change thing could be a problem” and becoming increasingly anxious at subsequent six-yearly meetings until, in 2019, exasperated at the fact that no-one is heeding his warnings, taps the microphone asking out loud ‘Is this thing on?’ I often think of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres when I see that cartoon. He must wonder whether anyone is listening to his repeated warnings of impending ecological and climate breakdown.
The Executive Board of the World Health Organisation is meeting next week. It’s going to be an important meeting and, thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can watch it live from tomorrow. I was invited by the Peoples Health Movement to write a commentary on two documents that will be presented to the Board by the head of WHO’s Secretariat, Dr Tedros. The first is EB148/27: Update on the financing and implementation of the Programme budget 2020–2021, which I wrote about yesterday. The second, and the subject of this blogpost, is EB148/25: Draft Proposed programme budget 2022–2023: Building forward better. It’s an astonishing document, but at 117 pages perhaps one that few people will read. So I’ll try to summarise it as best as I ca… Oh, you just want to know how much the budget is going to be? Sigh, ok: US$6.1bn – just 5% more than the approved budget for 2020-21.
If you want to read all of PHM’s Comments on the various topics under discussion at EB148, you can access them at PHM’s WHO Tracker, coordinated by David Legge. It’s a vital resource and provides a critical commentary on all the major global health challenges facing the word today.
It’s January, so that can only mean one thing – the first of two annual meetings of the World Health Organisation’s Executive Board. The January meeting is the more important of the two meetings as it’s when the agenda and resolutions of the May World Health Assembly are agreed and adopted. It’s also fun to watch as the members of the Board typically dress up as their favourite Lord of the Rings character and engage in some pretty convincing Tolkein-esque cosplay. Historically, the US member likes to think of themself as The Ring of Power, but this year Admiral Brett Giroir has agreed to dress as Gollum in recognition of his country’s sterling contribution to international cooperation over the past year.
In this post, I reflect on one of two documents presented to the board on WHO financing – EB148/27 Update on the financing and implementation of the Programme budget 2020–2021. In a follow up post, I’ll take a look at EB148/25 Proposed programme budget 2022–2023: Building forward better. Think of these two posts as some ‘looking back’/’looking forward’ reflections on WHO funding pre and (hopefully) post-Covid.
There’s little to admire about this year’s Reith lectures, delivered by ex-governor of the Bank of England Dr (a title conspicuous in its new-found usage) Mark Carney, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Finance, and now Finance Adviser to UK PM Johnson for COP26 in Glasgow next year. Sure, they are well-structured and tightly argued. But Carney is deliberately ambiguous. His words often hit the right notes but they are open to a very wide degree of interpretation. If we take his words literally, then they could be interpreted as progressive. But when we take a moment to reflect critically on what Carney is really saying, it’s much less clear. Carney has a role to play, and he plays it very well. Don’t be fooled.
If you’ve been listening to this year’s Reith Lectures, delivered by ex-governor of the Bank of England, United Nations special envoy on climate finance and adviser to the UK Government for COP26 Dr Mark Carney, you may be feeling a tad depressed – especially if you caught his final lecture: From Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity. If you are, good, because it shows that you are alive to the reality of the climate and ecological crisis we are in. If you aren’t, you’re probably a financier.
When I quit Twitter on Wednesday, 0.000021% of the world’s population (7.8bn) were following me (1600 followers). You laugh, but even if you were a global health social media god with 150,000 followers, that would still be an all-but-invisible 0.0019% of just about everybody. I quit because I watched The Social Dilemma (TSD) on Netflix (an irony not lost on my students today when we discussed the documentary during our webinar) and realised that I was addicted to this particular brand of social media.
I’ve written about World Health Organisation (WHO) funding a couple of times before (see AC/VC: The shock of WHO funding and Who’s funding WHO), and it’s come up again this week because the United States, or rather its current Republican leadership, has decided to halt payment to the Organisation. It’s worth reviewing the US’ financial contribution to WHO because various figures have been bandied around in the media, most of which are inaccurate.
I’m not a big fan of David Fidler’s global health writing. Sometimes I wonder why. He was quite prolific a few years ago; less so nowadays. But given that he’s well-known, has written a lot and most people I know think he’s great, self-doubt creeps in from time to time. So sometimes, when he writes something new, I give his work another go, just to make sure.
He wrote an article recently for Think Global Health entitled The World Health Organisation and Pandemic Politics and, inevitably, I found myself reading it. I’m not going to critique the entire article, just the first paragraph. Because, to be honest, that’s really all you need to read. Let me break the paragraph down for you, sentence by sentence.
I will be appearing before the City of London Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, charged under S14 of the Public Order Act 1986. This is my defence:
If academics are good for anything (are they good for anything?), then it’s reading stuff that people are interested in (but don’t themselves have the time to read it), synthesising that stuff and presenting it in an accessible way. I’ve spent much of this year reading reports on carbon emissions produced by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (focusing in particular on its report ‘Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’), and also reports from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (mostly Working Group III’s contribution to its 5th Assessment Report and its Special Report ‘Global Warming of 1.5C‘). The output of that reading was a talk I gave at Shrewsbury’s Hmmm Squad yesterday evening at The Old Post Office.