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Back in the WHO, US will pay $US200 million in overdue fees

The US is the largest funder of the WHO, and its dues to the body in 2020 were assessed at 22 per cent of the organisation’s budget, or nearly $US127 million. Typically, Washington also makes a large voluntary contribution to the health body over and above its mandatory dues. US annual voluntary contributions to the WHO averaged $US254 million from fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2018, according to a 2020 Congressional Research Service report.

When Trump announced he was freezing payments to the WHO on the grounds the UN agency hadn’t pressed China hard enough about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the US had already contributed $US58 million of its assessed 2020 dues. Later the State Department said it was reprogramming the rest of the 2020 WHO contribution or about $US62 million to pay assessed dues to other parts of the United Nations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.Credit:AP

Without ever specifically calling out China, Blinken said it was important that “all countries must make available all data from the earliest days of any outbreak.”

There is bipartisan agreement that the WHO was too willing, particularly in the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, to accept Beijing’s assurances that it was handling the situation.

Some Congress members and outside interest groups want to see the Biden administration use its re-engagement in the WHO to press for changes that would empower the UN agency to more forcefully demand timely access to information and data from member states about newly detected diseases.

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In a January memo of its policy recommendations for the Biden administration, the anti-poverty ONE Campaign said the US should use the goodwill engendered with the likes of Germany, France and the United Kingdom by its rejoining of the World Health Organisation “to pursue reforms that give [the WHO] a stronger mandate, sharpened tools for accountability, and reliable funding.”

Specifically, the group recommended that the administration support a preliminary package of reforms at the World Health Assembly in 2021 and then bring the issues to the UN Security Council to build support among major powers for the changes.

“Going forward, all countries should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies, so the world learns as much as possible as soon as possible,” Blinken said. “Transparency, information sharing, access for international experts – these must be the hallmarks of our common approach to what is truly a global challenge.“

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