By Elif İlhamoğlu
May 25, 2020
The 73rd World Health Assembly has come to end, with 140 countries deciding to act and cooperate together moving forward. International institutions and world leaders, especially EU leaders, have reacted to Donald Trump’s threats, and united under the World Health Organization. The United States, which would not have been able to accept the results of the declaration, was kept out of the process. Authorities rejected reports circulating in the US media about “an investigation of the pandemic being conducted against the WHO and China”. It was announced that the performances of all countries on the Covid-19 pandemic would be surveyed, not only the performances of the WHO and China.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) highest decision-making body, the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) came to an end after two day long sessions. At the end of the sessions, a total of 140 countries agreed on a joint plan. A decision of joint effort and co-operation against the coronavirus pandemic was issued. The aggressive attitudes and threats of the United States did not yield any results.
The meeting, which was attended by representatives from 194 countries, began with the agenda of ensuring the global “shared access” and the “fair distribution” of vaccines, medicines and other medical technologies against the Covid-19. It ended with debates over a proposed ‘independent investigation’ in order to better understand the origins and the consequences of the pandemic.
TRUMP OPPOSES ACCESSIBILITY
International institutions and countries from the United Nations to the World Health Organization and the European Union emphasized joint struggle, solidarity and cooperation against the coronavirus, while the United States continues its anti-China rhetoric while increasing threats to cut funds and place sanctions on those who don’t agree with it. Trump has opposed the distribution of a vaccine as global public service. This attitude of the United States garnered a strong negative reaction at the meeting.
TURKEY: THIS IS A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR UNITY
Speaking on the first day of the Assembly, which was held via a video conference method for the first time in its history, the Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has stressed on global solidarity and cooperation:
“We are always ready to mutually share our knowledge and experience. While feeling the deepest sorrow from our losses, we should not waste this historic opportunity for unity, which had emerged from the Covid-19, on other conflicts and struggles, and instead focus on building a healthier future. I would like to announce that my country will always be a part of efforts toward global solidarity and a solution.”
XI JINPING: THE VACCINE WILL BE GLOBAL
President Xi Jinping also gave a speech at the assembly, entitled “Fighting COVID-19 Through Solidarity and Cooperation Building a Global Community of Health for All”.
Xi said that China has a vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and announced that China will provide $2 billion over the next two years to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries.
Xi also remarked that a COVID-19 vaccine is in development and will soon be deployed in China, when available, it will be made globally available. This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.
TRUMP VERSUS THE WORLD
Trump announced that he will “permanently” suspend the funds to the World Health Organization after 30 days, if the WHO fails to make large-scale reforms, and stated that he will reconsider the US’ WHO membership.
Trump shared the letter he sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus via his Twitter account. In the letter, Trump said that the US has come to a number of conclusions as a result of their research on the WHO’s struggle against the new type of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the organization’s relations with China. While arguing that China is trying to hide a lot of evidence about the virus, Trump said that the organization still identifies China as “transparent.”
EU: WE NEED COOPERATION, NOT FINGER POINTING
EU Commission Spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson pointed out that international cooperation and multilateral organizations are more important, especially now with the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” she said. Battu-Henriksson has also said that the Union will continue to support the WHO.
MACRON: WE WILL INCREASE SUPPORT
French President Emmanuel Macron also stated his country’s support for the WHO, saying: “We need a strong World Health Organization, and on behalf of France, we will increase our financial support for the organization.”
MERKEL: THIS MUST BE SUPPORTED
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the WHO should receive more financial support, saying: “The World Health Organization is a legitimate and global institution, it is the center of the decision making. The organization needs to have a sustainable financial structure.”
BEIJING: THEY ARE TRYING TO COVER UP THEIR OWN INCAPABILITIES
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that “We recommend that the United States stop making accusations,” arguing that Trump has “misled the public opinion, tried to smear China’s efforts to combat the new type of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and tried to cover up the US’ incapabilities in fighting it” at a press conference in the Capital City Beijing.
FULL SUPPORT FROM CHINA AND THE WHO FOR AN ‘INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION’
The assembly’s declaration results were another subject of controversy. At the end of the meeting, a decision was made to launch an independent investigation to survey issues such as the spread of the pandemic, the response of countries and international institutions, different methods of struggle and the possibility of cooperation. The decision to conduct an investigation includes the surveying how various countries managed the pandemic and the actions of the World Health Organization.
However, US media has portrayed the declaration results as if the investigation was directed solely against China and the WHO. In reality, the decision was made with China’s signature and full support of China and the WHO. In addition, the directive involves ‘surveying’ rather than the more pointed term ‘investigation’. Unlike in Trump’s allegations and accusations, no country or institution was held responsible in the declaration. The survey is being taken in order to collect some data from the international community for the post-pandemic era.
World Health Organization officials said that they supported this decision to conduct an independent investigation of institutions and countries, which will actually create an opportunity to unite and research a collective answer for the international community. Chinese officials also emphasized their full support, and had the following to say about the fake news in Western media:
1. The claim that more than 100 countries signed off an investigative decree against China does not reflect the truth. China is one of the parties that initiated this decree. We have been supporting this decree from the very beginning.
2. This so-called “investigation” is actually an evaluation of the WHO’s experience in the fight against the pandemic. This evaluation will be conducted, at the soonest possible time, with the consultation of the member states with the WHO Director General, and will be done step by step, objectively, independently and comprehensively.
3. It is well-understood from the decree, that it is not an investigation, but a survey which is being requested, the WHO’s leadership role in the evaluation was requested, and no investigation is being conducted to find a fault of any country.
“The decision, by affirming and supporting the leading role of the WHO, calls for a prevention of of discrimination and smearing of member states, for a fight against misinformation and disinformation, a strengthening of cooperation around diagnosis, treatment, medicines and vaccines, and research on the zoonotic origin of the virus: the WHO studies are to be evaluated at a suitable time. All of this is in line with China’s position and meets the common wishes of the majority of the international community. In this context, China, together with more than 140 countries, has co-initiated the draft resolution and has joined the consensus.”
The United States initially disagreed with the declaration since there was no accusation of blaming China, but it did not hold this position for long. Still, the US administration says that it is not satisfied with the decision.
At the meeting, European leaders, representatives from the European Union and the United Nations criticized the US’ aggressive stance, while stressing the importance of the World Health Organization in the continued fight against the coronavirus.
The isolation of the United States (which has already lost its global hegemony) was once again proven at this assembly. The conflict between the United States and Europe came to light through statements of the leaders themselves. On the other hand, the WHO’s and China’s messages of solidarity, their mature attitudes and their unifying calls for cooperation are deeply appreciated by the world community, while the US’ accusations fell on deaf ears.