WHO boss trains coronavirus response panel with former Liberia and New Zealand leaders in charge

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Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to lead new World Health Organization panel to give “honest assessment” of global response to coronavirus pandemic, a the head of the United Nations health agency announced on Thursday.

WHO chief executive Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whose agency faces an American pullout following Trump administration complaints about his early handling of the viral emergency, announced appointments to the all-new Panel independent for pandemic preparedness and response.

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark are tasked with “giving an honest assessment” of the pandemic. (AP)

“I cannot imagine two other independent and committed leaders to guide us through this critical learning process to help us understand what happened – an honest assessment – and to help us also understand what we need to to avoid such a tragedy in the future. Said Tedros.

WHO chief reiterated calls for global unity and denounced a general lack of leadership, but made no reference to the fact that the Trump administration gave one year’s official notice this week of his intention to withdraw the United States from the United Nations health agency.

The United States is WHO’s largest donor, contributing $ 400-500 million annually in recent years.

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“My friends, make no mistake: the biggest threat we face today is not the virus itself. Rather, it is the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels, ”said Tedros at a weekly meeting of member states, which was made unusually public when the panel appointments were announced.

He said he would convene a special meeting of the WHO executive council in September, before hosting the 194-member assembly in November.

The World Health Assembly, which usually takes place in May, was interrupted and held online this year due to the pandemic.

“We need to prepare for future global epidemics and the many other challenges of our time, such as antimicrobial resistance, inequality and the climate crisis,” said Tedros. “COVID-19 took us so much. But it also gives us the opportunity to break with the past – and to rebuild better. ”

The May assembly called for a full assessment of the WHO and the world response to the epidemic, and after repeated criticisms of the Trump administration at the United Nations health agency on his handling of the pandemic and his alleged deference to China, where COVID-19 first appeared.

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Tedros suggested that the panel should have an independent administration, regularly update member states on its progress and hold monthly meetings.

“It cannot be another blue sign that publishes a report that goes up on the library,” he said. “We need to come together in a global conversation to take these hard-won lessons and turn them into action.”

“I hope that the defining crisis of our time will also remind everyone that the best way and the only way to go is together,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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