US to deliver $200 million to WHO, fulfilling contributions
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the U.S. will deliver more than $200 million in assessed funds to the World Health Organization (WHO), following through on contributions largely delayed under the Trump administration.
The secretary made his remarks during a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council, committing the Biden administration to working with the international community in beating back COVID-19 and distributing the vaccine.
Yet he also called for reform of the global health body, in a nod to criticism that the WHO did not do enough to respond to the first reports of the respiratory illness coming out of Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
“Today, I’m pleased to confirm that by the end of the month, the United States intends to pay over $200 million in assessed and current obligations to the WHO,” Blinken said.
“This is a key step forward to filling our financial obligations as a WHO member, and it reflects our renewed commitment to ensuring the WHO has the support it needs to lead the global response to the pandemic. Even as we work to reform it, for the future.”
Former President Trump froze U.S. contributions to the WHO in April and initiated withdrawal from the organization in July, criticizing it as biased toward China in failing to confront Beijing about its initial response to the coronavirus.
President Biden rejoined the WHO on his first day in office, and while there is bipartisan support in Congress to push back against China’s influence at the global health body, Democrats and Republicans are split over how to proceed.
Democrats support the Biden administration’s call to initiate reforms from within while Republicans have called for withholding funds from the WHO until reform measures are taken.
Blinken, in his remarks, also reiterated the administration’s call for an “independent” investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
“We know the COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to occur in the years to come. The ongoing expert investigation about the urgency of this pandemic and the report that will be issued must be independent with findings based on science and facts and free from interference,” the secretary said.
“To better understand this pandemic, and prepare for the next one, all countries must make available all data from the earliest days of any outbreak. Transparency, information sharing access for international experts, these must be the hallmarks of our common approach to what is truly a global challenge.”
An international team of WHO experts published preliminary findings last week from an investigation conducted in Wuhan into the origins of the virus — saying that it “most likely” jumped from animals to humans.
The investigators further called it “highly unlikely” that the virus originated in a laboratory, a theory that was encouraged by the Trump administration.
The Biden administration has said it is looking forward to “scrutinizing” the data and called for China to make available all of its data from the earliest days of the outbreak.