WHO cares? Well, yes, WHO – the World Health Organisation – does actually care. It cares a lot about a lot of things – all of which are beneficial to my, yours, everyone’s health on the planet. But that isn’t generally where I start a conversation with someone largely ignorant of what WHO is and what it does. Typically, it starts with a bit of something that they might have picked up on the internet about how WHO is corrupt, useless, and/or a puppet of the Gates Foundation, the pharmaceutical industry, or China. It’s a shame that people are so ignorant of, and thus so quick to denigrate, an international organisation that does so much good. As someone who has researched and taught students about WHO for many years, and who also happens to lead a course on global health, the media and what Carl Bergstrom would call ‘bullshit’, I feel moderately qualified to review the recent Insight Investigation on WHO by a couple of The Sunday Times journalists Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnot (C&A). It’s called China, the WHO and the powergrab that fuelled a pandemic, but don’t let that arbitrary constellation of words confuse you.
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.
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.
In preparation for this year’s World Health Assembly (I will be attending again this year as a WHO ‘watcher’ with the Peoples Health Movement), I’ve been reading a couple of documents produced by the WHO Executive Board that summarise the Organisation’s current thinking on health, environment and climate change (both currently in draft form): WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments (EB144/15); and Global plan of action on climate change and health in small island developing States (EB144/16).