On Friday, May 29, the President of U.S., Donald Trump, announced terminating his membership from the World Health Organisation. He announced this citing casual behaviour of WHO regarding handling the issue of COVID-19 as the reason. He alleged that WHO did this to protect China and has pointed out the Chinese carelessness in informing the world about COVID-19. The disease has taken the lives of lakhs of people and has almost completely stopped the wheel of the economy of the whole world.
The President has taken this step in one sudden stroke. Through a tweet, he has warned WHO that he will stop US’ financial assistance if it does not handle the issue seriously and has given 30 days of time for doing so.
This is the letter sent to Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization. It is self-explanatory! pic.twitter.com/pF2kzPUpDv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
WHO, a UN agency, was created to coordinate international health policy, particularly on infectious disease. It has 194 members and is run by all of them. Each country chooses its delegation of health experts and leaders in its assembly. All the members play an important role in the organization’s decision and policy-making through their respective members making WHO a multilateral organization.
The WHO has more than 150 field offices globally. It runs programmes locally as well as at world level to eradicate disease, malnutrition and for other health-related issues.
It provides its members local clinics, training to health ministries, equipment, financial aid and community resources, contributing on a large scale in health-related R&D. All this requires financial support. With the US being the largest donor to WHO, it influences the institution’s politics.
With the withdrawal of the US, WHO will lose 15% of its financial resource affecting all these activities mentioned above. This will affect the health condition of the world now and in future also. It can worsen further by giving a precedent to other major players to leave this organization. That will further make the situation critical.
This step will have a significant impact on geopolitics as well. The US leaving the organisation will create a void that China is ready to fill. The move will not change the situation as it will continue the hegemony of any one country, just the controlling hands will change; initially, it was the US and now, it will be China.
China is already trying to play important role in world politics and organisations, one by promoting preferential bilateral partnership through its Belt Road Initiative and second, by building its own institutions like Shanghai Cooperation Group and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It is making the smallest and developing countries in its favour by its economic and military policies. This move will provide it with a nice opportunity to fulfil its global aspirations.
Leaving the ground is not the option that the US should choose in such a situation. Global health coordination is a kind of public good for all countries. It can benefit everyone equally if everyone cooperates.
So the US’ response shows that it is not cooperating in such a health crisis for the benefit of others as well as its own. This action can have certain serious repercussions.
This reaction will degrade the image of the US as an irresponsible and protectionist country and secondly, it will provide free ground to China to play an important role and win the ground.
It is important for the US to understand that any monopoly cannot last forever and it is important to change with time. So, the US needs to have a look at the changing world and then make its new powerful image according to the time and situation.
It needs to understand that it is not only China which is coming on the ground; in some time, there will be more players. The time is to transform from a monopoly to multipolar world order. The US needs to understand this. It was recently in the news that the masks and test kits provided by China for overseas medical assistance were of poor quality. This can challenge the Chinese global image.
The US can use this to take advantage of this situation by providing good quality masks and health kits. The US can play its card on this matter and on China`s carelessness about providing information. The US still enjoys a dominant position in established world order and governance. It can use its position to demand favourable terms from China.
Cutting its relationship will just isolate the US from the world and give others the chance to take its position. Leaving the ground is not a wise choice of US and neither it is healthy for the world. Now, with changing time and scenario, other players should come forward and play the roles they are supposed to, in this global organisation. This is how a multilateral organization should function and be the post-COVID new normal.