The Trump administration has notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization, multiple officials say, a move that comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the Americas over the past week.
The withdrawal, which goes into effect next July, has drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations and allies abroad. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected.
Trump formally withdraws from the WHO
President Donald Trump on Tuesday formally started the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, making good on threats to deprive the UN body of its top funding source over its response to the coronavirus.
Public health advocates and Trump’s political opponents voiced outrage at the departure from the Geneva-based body, which leads the global fight on maladies from polio to measles to mental health — as well as COVID-19, at a time when cases have again been rising around the world.
After threatening to suspend the $400 million in annual US contributions and then announcing a withdrawal, the Trump administration has formally sent a notice to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a State Department spokesperson said.
The withdrawal of the key WHO founding member is effective in one year — July 6, 2021. Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in November elections, vowed he would immediately end the pullout if he won the White House.
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“Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as President, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to the news with a one-word tweet — “Together!” — as he linked to a discussion by US health experts on how leaving the global body could impede efforts to prevent future pandemics.
In line with conditions set when the WHO was set up in 1948, the United States can leave within one year but must meet its remaining assessed financial obligations, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Democrats lambaste Trump’s decision to withdraw from WHO
Democratic lawmakers have accused Trump of seeking to deflect criticism from his handling of the pandemic in the United States, which has suffered by far the highest death toll of any nation despite the president’s stated hope that the virus will disappear.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted the news Tuesday.
“Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the @WHOin the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests—it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he wrote.
A State Department official also confirmed that “the United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the UN Secretary-General, who is the depository for the WHO.” The spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met.”
Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations.”
The letter addressed to the UN is very short, around three sentences, a source briefed on the correspondence said, and it triggers a one-year withdrawal timeline. However, this source also cautioned that they cannot confirm they saw the final version of the letter.
Loyce Pace, president and executive director of Global Health Council said: “Thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the frontlines: the world needs WHO. This move signals a dangerous gamble in the midst of a pandemic we have yet to conquer, and without a viable alternative to WHO.”
Some have warned that withdrawal in the current environment could also interfere with clinical trials essential for developing vaccines, as well as efforts to trace the spread of the virus globally.
While lawmakers from both parties have long cited systemic problems with the WHO, many have also denounced the President’s decision to withdraw during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “is an act of true senselessness.” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he disagreed with Trump’s decision.
“If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen,” he said.
Trump withdraws from WHO: is it an attempt to deflect blame?
Trump’s attack on WHO has been a manifestation of his erratic response to the coronavirus. It is noted that at the start of the outbreak, the President was very nonchalant about its contagion and danger, emphasising that it is nothing more than a flu. After 4 months and more than 3 million cases, the President has decided to deflect attention by taking his anger out on WHO.
In late May, Trump said that China exerted “total control” over the WHO and accused the UN body led by Tedros, an Ethiopian doctor and diplomat, of failing to implement reforms.
Blaming China for the coronavirus, Trump, a frequent critic of the UN, said the United States would redirect funding “to other worldwide and deserving, urgent, global public health needs.”
President Donald Trump said he was halting funding to the organization
in mid-April and announced his intention to withdraw
from the WHO in May after he said it “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms.” Trump had denounced the US’ contribution to the WHO — $400-500 million — in comparison to China’s and consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.
Last month, despite alleging that the World Health Organization “enabled” the Chinese government’s sweeping cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic’s origins, members of the GOP China task force urged Trump to reconsider his decision
to terminate relations with the international body, arguing that the US can do more to affect change as a member.
Cousens, the head of the UN Foundation, called the decision “short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous” and said that the US’ “ability to lead and shape an agenda for reform is drastically diminished when they step out of the field of play.”
“There’s no question but that working within an institution like the World Health Organization allows the United States and others to leverage their resources to have much greater impact,” she said.
She pointed to the WHO’s work in “distributing millions of pieces of personal protective equipment to medical facilities around the world, millions of diagnostic tests, tracking the virus’ spread across borders, coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine, … coordinating research among over 100 countries … along with all of the work that they do in low resource and more humanitarian settings.”
Move comes as a global pandemic is surging
The heads of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Physicians condemned the move to withdraw from the WHO, saying in a statement that it “puts the health of our country at grave risk.”
“This dangerous withdrawal not only impacts the global response against COVID-19, but also undermines efforts to address other major public health threats,” they said in a joint statement. “We call on Congress to reject the Administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution. Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back.”
The number of coronavirus cases continues to surge
across the US and in various countries around the world.
There are at least 2,953,423 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 130,546 people have died from the virus in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
In the span of a week and a half, the number of US coronavirus cases reported each day has doubled, and officials are saying this is still the first wave of the pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that the rise of cases in the US is purely the result of increased testing, but a WHO official knocked down that claim on Monday.
WHO scientists and experts are scheduled to travel to China this weekend to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Tuesday.
Specifically, experts will be seeking to trace the narrative of how the coronavirus might have spread from the wild to possibly farm animals to humans, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.
Biden vows to reverse decision
The Trump administration has already diverted funding from the WHO and the process to formally withdraw will take a year to complete. Critics of the decision hope that the withdrawal decision will be reversed if Trump loses the presidential election in November. In a tweet Tuesday, Biden vowed to do so if elected.
“Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as President, I will rejoin the @WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage,” he wrote.
US allies have rallied to the support of the WHO, with a top diplomat from Germany calling for global solidarity and Italy’s Health Minister criticizing Trump’s decision as “serious and wrong”.
Trump’s decision to permanently terminate the US relationship with the WHO follows a years-long pattern of railing against global organizations, with the President claiming that the US is being taken advantage of. The President has questioned US funding to the United Nations and NATO, withdrawn from the Paris climate accord and repeatedly criticized the World Trade Organization.
USA’s status as superpower waning
Amid opacity hovering over post-pandemic world — one thing is certain — the prevailing global contagion is likely to alter the course of the world. A chronological account of the world reveals, major natural catastrophes have toppled some of the greatest empires and annihilated many dynasties; the ongoing calamity is moving on the same trajectory with similar intensity and enormity. Hence, it is likely to undergo comparable outcomes. The status of the United States as a superpower is waning amid haphazard decisions enforced by the Trump administration.
The United States, which was once the largest contributor to the World Health Organisation, has surrendered its influence in global healthcare regulation. This is a bad premonition for the United States, as it comes at a time when it is ceding ground to China in this sphere.
Read more: Post-pandemic world: Is China going to replace U.S. as superpower?
Whereas Trump administration has exploited the pandemic to pull back on integration, China is using this crisis to showcase its willingness to lead. Despite early mistakes that nearly cost the lives of thousands of people, Beijing has now learnt how to fight the new virus. It also has large stockpiles of the required paraphernalia. These are, for sure, valuable assets for China to exert its influence and regain its lost economic niche in the world.
It seems as if the United States is on its way out of global hegemony. And analysts say that this pandemic will lead to an even more rapid rise of China,
GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources