75 years on, the WHO has forgotten its roots
Bloated and bureaucratic, the institution has lost its way
The World Health Organization turns 75 today, on World Health Day. It’s a good opportunity to do a health check on an organisation which has had a catastrophic pandemic — and which, like many 75-year-olds, finds that its gilded youth is at risk of turning corrupt in its old age.
WHO’s failings in the pandemic are vast. A brief summary would include: recommending that all nations follow a lockdown model in February 2020, when its own report on pandemic mitigations from three months earlier had not mentioned the word lockdown once; ignoring studies on previous lockdown trials during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which concluded that they had failed; appointing Peter Daszak, with strong commercial and research ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as American representative in its initial investigation into the origins of Covid-19; using advertising material from pharmaceutical giant Merck in a campaign in India against low-cost treatments, when Merck had its own alternative treatment Molnupiravir about to receive a $1.2 billion contract from the US government; and attempting to redefine core concepts such as “herd immunity”.
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The last three items on the list underline what is wrong with WHO today. Conflicts of interest grounded in corporate profit have sucked the life out of the old internationalist organisation. While WHO was originally funded primarily by nation states, private contributions now comprise 80% of funding. Donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for instance, now nearly match those of the American government. This has major policy implications, with the previous W.H.O. Director-General Margaret Chan complaining about the role of private interests in directing strategy.
All this is anathema to WHO’s founding principles. These enshrined a bottom-up community healthcare model, defining health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Yet WHO is now embarked on a mission of transnational governance – built around new pandemic treaties imposing unilateral responses, and a rewriting of the international health regulations.
It’s no coincidence that the retreat from the community-led healthcare model into top-down transnational global health governance has coincided with this shift in funding. Expanding corporate funding further will also expand the harmful global health model which saw WHO rolling out policies destroying the lives and livelihoods of poor people around the world.
But that also makes it clear what WHO must do. Like many 75-year-olds, it needs to become leaner. This involves recognising that the people best equipped to make decisions about their healthcare are not well-paid public health officials in Geneva and New York — but the communities who are affected themselves. Empowering communities again, all around the world, must become WHO’s mission if it is to redeem itself.
“Yet WHO is now embarked on a mission of transnational governance – built around new pandemic treaties imposing unilateral responses, and a rewriting of the international health regulations.”
This is a massively underreported story, imo, although I wonder if greater media coverage would change anything. As a recent Unherd poll suggested, a substantial majority of Brits agreed with the covid lockdowns. Yes, I know, we must be careful how we interpret poll results. Still, it appears there’s a much larger appetite for authoritarian control than I would ever have imagined before the pandemic.
“As a recent Unherd poll suggested, a substantial majority of Brits agreed with the covid lockdowns.”
Despite your caveat, your conclusion regarding a “larger appetite for authoritarian control” (in UK) is entirely misplaced.
The Unherd survey question was: Lockdown “In retrospect, lockdowns were a mistake” Agree or disagree?
Mildly and strongly disagree (that they were a mistake) were 24% and 30% respectively – totalling 54%.
Hardly a substantial majority, not the ringing endorsement of ‘more authoritarian controls’ that article after article in Unherd has claimed.
Not Unherd’s finest hour.
Yes DM, UnHerd Authors often distort the cold analysis of a Poll with their interpretative headline. To be fair though the rest of Media can often do that too.
The phrase ‘authoritarian’ used by JB – I’m not sure folks complying with Lockdowns at the time, or indicating they didn’t think they were a mistake in hindsight, is indicative they felt they were authoritarian. I don’t think that was the primary underlying emotion (obviously for a minority it may have been but not for majority). No I think the primary motivator was a sense of social solidarity. I don’t believe compliance would have been as good as it was without that, and furthermore it would have been unenforceable if the primary reaction was anything less.
Now critics can argue that folks were duped with false scaremongering, but I still think that conclusion misses something at the core of how we reacted. We complied because of sense of solidarity with others. That’s the important conclusion. Sometimes we yearn for that sense of community and in many of our lifetimes the Pandemic was the only time we’ve had to show that, rightly or wrongly.
Exactly the same dynamic of social solidarity was in evidence in 1930s/40s Germany – everybody must think the same and do what they’re told. Scrap all fundamental human and civil rights in the name of solidarity and purity of thought.
Hardly a ringing endorsement of the benign nature of human beings.
Come on PB you know there’s a marked difference. That’s a silly point. You are either struggling with a counter argument or v ignorant of the totalitarian nature of Germany from the mid 30s.
However I do understand certain types can’t abide the thought people do something without a gun to their head for ‘caring’, social solidarity reasons.
Responsibility to do the right thing… e.g. protect the future of the children should have won out very quickly when one learned the real IFR early on.
The Australian governments have been slow to do one thing that would protect children, that is, to ensure adequate ventilation in classrooms.
Perhaps, but you know we’re not the best at protecting future of our kids, and others kids, regardless of the Pandemic.
IMO there are other damaging factors we expose them to – social media and smart phones too early, and over-protection. Stunts growth and development and some evidence a factor in increasing mental health probs.
Them there is relative poverty and it’s impact on children.
I’m not always convinced those using the impact on Children of Lockdowns to argue against the latter are really that bothered about other Children’s welfare when it really comes to it.
This is what nanny states do to people. Besides that, people don’t want to make decisions….. and will never link up lockdowns and plummeting world economies.
AZ has been banned in Australia (quietly withdrawn!). Side effects. The WHO still listed it as safe up to a few days ago. I doubt that has changed.
From Wikipedia: Pournelle’s law
The principle that any bureaucracy eventually comes to serve its own interests rather than those it was created to help with.
…and my own corollary
Any sufficiently complex society will end up being run by bureaucrats for bureaucrats.
Thanks Toby. This leviathan must be pruned back and stripped of corporate influence and control. I am genuinely frightened about the proposed IHR changes and what they mean for the future of everybody on this planet.
There has been for many decades, and clearly still is, a deliberate process of domestic governments handing power over important policy areas to international organisations. This has been especially true of European governments, including Britain.
Though in the beginning this may have been with good intentions, for example the United Nations in 1945, in recent decades I believe surrender of sovereignty has been conciously used by governments loosely defined as “progressive”, to remove fundamentally important policy areas from democratic control of the people of nation states.
A government knows that any policy it institutes and law it passes can be reversed and repealed by a subsequent democratically elected government. The only way to effectively protect implemented measures is to sign up to international treaties and organisations whose rules will impede the freedom to legislate of future governments – particularly right-wing governmenents.
If such institutions were highly competent, free of political ideology, bias, and influence, and had the flexibility to adapt policies to the particular conditions of the countries that have acceded to them, I would still argue that delegating control over fundamental policy areas such as immigration, asylum policy, environmental policy, law and justice to these organisations is democratically illegitimate.
But these institutions have time and time again been found to be: grossly incompetent (as all bureacracies invariably are) and dominated by people whose ideological committment to “progressive” woke dogma frames their actions and institutional policy, often to the extent that adherence to dogma takes precedence over the fundamental purpose of the organisation.
Many of the organisations are obscenely corrupt. Witness the absurdity of the UN in which Russia has just taken over the presidency of the UN Security Council, and the representaves of countries with the most appalling human rights records regularly passing motions censuring Israel. The WHO has been corrupted by money from China and the likes of Gates. The unseemly haste with which the WHO sought to discredit the lab leak theory, mandate vaccines and lavish praise on China’s response to the Pandemic, all produce the rodolent smell of corruption.
I am not sure about the existence of a supposed sophisticated WEF conspiracy for a new world government. But, clearly, there has been an ongoing process to delegate extensive power from national governments to international organisations dominated by people ideologically commited to a “progressive” ideology, and who are beyond the control of the ballot box.
I’ll come clean: I believe “progressive” ideology is a collection of incredibly stupid (and increasingly simply insane) utopian nonsense that when transferred in to policy in the real world is immensely socially and economically destructive. The international organisations I’m referring to are therefore immensely socially and economically destructive on a global scale. Add to that that they are invariably grossly incompetent, corrupt, and profoundly undemocratic and the urgent need for the people of nation states to protect themselves by forcing withdrawal from such organisations is readily apparent.
Maybe the answer is not to reject the corporate money & influence but to acknowledge it and react to the organisation with that in mind.
if The WHO is to rely on government money alone it will be a bureaucratic mess at the mercy of political funding.
im not sure which is the worst option, but capitalism and the market tend to maximise efficiency, so long as we are blindingly aware we are being sold to.
Oh dear, this article reads a little like a guy I came across recently who decided it was appropriate to start shouting at someone who was wearing a mask in a public place – or in other words a bit of a loony conspiratorial rant from someone who spends too much time forming opinions from content on Reddit.
Oh dear..an article by someone you obviously disagree with! Have you got a constructive counter argument to make? Or do you just trade in smears and abuse, as you have above, like all the other Govidiots?
Seems little point. There’s some valid observations concerning bureaucracy and Chinese influence, but Unherd has become a septic echo chamber when it comes to the subject of lockdowns and here’s another piece of eye swivelling garbage.
Why not go to The Guardian for your suitably filtered news then. Sponsored by a Billy Gates in fact! At least here we get differing viewpoints and mainly intelligent and courteous BTL commentary.
If you can advise when and where there was an Unherd article giving a different viewpoint on lockdown policy then, please, go ahead and link it.
I think you’ll find that over the course of the pandemic Freddie Sayers courteously interviewed public health experts who defended all points of views. In the end however the facts are clear. Lockdowns did not reduce excess deaths in countries that applied them and had extremely negative social, economic and medical effects (increased excess deaths overall) 250 million Indian kids for example missed 2 years of school to take one example. that will reverberate through their society for years. How is it a “conspiratorial rant” to point things like that out? have you consulted a table that lists excess deaths by country and compared it to the lockdown policies in those countries. Do you know age stratified IFR numbers? these are basic facts that should be agreed on all sides but to point them out is somehow “right wing”
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