One of the first steps taken by the new United States (US) President Joe Biden was to retract former President Trump’s decisions to stop funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in April 2020 and withdraw from WHO altogether in July 2020.
President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at the 148th session of the WHO’s Executive Board (EB) on January 21, 2021 to renew the US relationship with WHO. As per Dr. Fauci’s speech the US will return to WHO and participate in and help fund the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, known as COVAX, the global framework set up to vaccinating people in low- and middle-income countries against COVID-19. The US will also join the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which aims to ensure all countries have access to treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
Both Dr. Fauci and the WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted that the US has been a long standing partner of WHO since inception. Historically the US has been the largest donor of WHO. US donation to WHO accounted for about 5% of its operating budget between 2018-19.
Dr. Fauci outlined how the US will support WHO under the Biden administration, specifically mentioning,
- building global health security capacity,
- supporting the international COVID-19 response and mitigating its impact on the world,
- expanding pandemic preparedness,
- supporting efforts to strengthen health systems around the world, and
- advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Biden administration also intends to be fully engaged in advancing global health, supporting global health security, and the global health security agenda and building a healthier future for all people,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor for US President Joe Biden, as per Health Policy Watch.Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor for US President Joe Biden
While thanking the WHO for leading the public health response against the pandemic, Dr. Fauci said that the US was committed to WHO reforms as well. Previously in August 2020 Germany and France also called for reforms to strengthen the WHO.
Dr. Fauci’s comments and the return of the US to the WHO was welcomed by many member states including, United Kingdom, The European Union, Norway, Finland, Israel, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Austria, the African bloc, Pacific small island states, and Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile and Brazil, and China
Need for WHO funding diversification
At the 148th session of the WHO EB member states called for funding diversification of the WHO. Former President Trump’s decision to cut funding to WHO in April 2020 highlighted the unpredictable nature of WHO’s funding, which relies heavily on voluntary donations from member states as well as from other charities. At the time of withdrawal, the US was the largest single donor of WHO.
EB members acknowledged that the US’s decision to rejoin WHO helps to restabilize WHO’s finances. However they stated that long-term problems of WHO, such as overreliance on possibly varying donation from a few key states and organizations, remain unresolved.