parPar Andreas Rinke et Stephanie Nebehay
BERLIN / GENEVA (Reuters) – Germany and France want to give more money and power to the World Health Organization after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the long-standing financial and legal weaknesses of the United Nations agency, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
The proposed reforms could already be discussed at the WHO in mid-September, three officials familiar with the talks told Reuters, in a quick deadline that would confirm the growing concerns of the two European powers over the organization, which they also consider to be excessively prone. outside influences.
In a joint document distributed to diplomats involved in the reform negotiations, Berlin and Paris said that WHO’s mandate, which includes preventing epidemics around the world and helping governments to fight them, was not not supported by sufficient financial resources and legal powers.
“Not only during the current pandemic, it has become clear that the WHO partly does not have the capacity to fulfill this mandate,” said the document seen by Reuters.
A Western diplomat in Geneva, referring to member states’ contributions according to their GDP, said: “The key point is the mismatch between WHO’s mandate and funding. It’s very pro-WHO, she should have more money and (they) are asking for an increase in assessed contributions. ”
France and Germany are seeking a consensus “from Washington to Beijing” around the document, said a source familiar with the discussions.
The move shows the two countries’ keen interest in an overhaul to strengthen the WHO, despite discussions on the issue with the United States that collapsed earlier in August at the G7 level due to differing views on the reform.
France and Germany, whose health ministers pledged new funds after talks with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in June, have made no secret of their criticism of the WHO .
But their approach is very different from that of the Trump administration, which cut funding, announced its withdrawal from next July and accused Tedros of being a puppet of China.
The Franco-German reform plan is focused on strengthening the WHO, in part to enable it to be more critical of Member States if they fail to adhere to global rules of transparency in reporting health concerns and of illness.
A German government official, invited to comment on the document, said: “Germany with others wants reform, talks are underway at various levels.”
The French Ministry of Health was not available for comment.
A WHO spokesperson was unable to provide any information.
The seven-page document lists 10 reforms aimed at strengthening WHO’s legal powers and funding.
“WHO’s overall budget of around $ 5 billion per biennium is equivalent to funding a larger subregional hospital,” the joint document said, calling for more and more reliable funding.
Only a fifth of the agency’s budget comes from payments from Member States without conditions. The remainder comes from “short-term, unpredictable and largely highly specified voluntary contributions,” the document says, in apparent reference to the role of individual philanthropic funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A stronger budget is needed in particular to manage emergencies, the document said, to prevent WHO from needing to raise funds in the midst of outbreaks, which could further reduce its independence.
WHO experts should be able to “independently investigate and assess (potential) outbreaks as soon as possible,” the document said. China has been accused in this pandemic and past epidemics of being slow or reluctant to share data and grant rapid access to WHO teams.
WHO should also be subject to stronger surveillance in emergency situations to quickly assess its operations, the document said, proposing the creation of a group of national experts who could monitor crises.
To ensure that the proposed reforms are properly monitored, the document recommends setting up a group of experts for this purpose, similar to the one currently evaluating the management of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Tangi Salaun in Paris and Kate Kelland in London; writing by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Nick Macfie)