Caixin
Apr 15, 2020 08:28 PM
WORLD

China and Its Neighbors Stick Up for WHO After Trump Threatens Funding Cutoff

WHO Headquarters in Switzerland.
WHO Headquarters in Switzerland.

China, Japan, South Korea and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) came to the defense of the World Health Organization (WHO) after U.S. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he is halting the organization’s funding.

The three countries and ASEAN member states released a joint statement on Tuesday following a virtual summit, stressing the “important role of the WHO in the global campaign to control and contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Trump said that he had instructed his administration to withhold funding to the health body while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”

The move follows Trump’s weeks of criticism over the organization, saying it’s biased toward China.

“One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” Trump said at a White House briefing on Tuesday. “Had other nations likewise suspended travel from China, countless more lives would have been saved.”

It remains unclear how the payment halt would take effect or whether Trump has the authority to do so.

For member state dues for the two-year payment cycle of 2020 to 2021, the U.S. is set to pay the most among all states, accounting for 22% of all such dues, according to WHO data. China comes in second, contributing 12% of total dues.

The U.S. has contributed $893 million to the WHO’s operations during its current two-year funding cycle, Bloomberg reported, citing figures from the organization.

Member state dues make up less than a quarter of WHO funding. The remainder comes from voluntary contributions primarily from member states and nonprofit organizations. Americans donated over $945.6 million to the WHO for the 2016-2017 period, according to WHO data. Contributions from the United States made up more than 76% of donated funding.

In response to growing criticism of the organization, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked last week to “please quarantine politicizing Covid-19.”

“And now the United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy,” he said. “And the rest of the world should come together to fight it.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a Tuesday statement that it is not the time to “reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”

“As I have said before, now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” Guterres said.

Contact reporter Timmy Shen (hongmingshen@caixin.com, Twitter: @timmyhmshen) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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