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The WHO Explained

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the WHO has played a central role in the international response. It has also been a lightning rod for controversies, with the Trump administration recently declaring its intention to “terminate” the US relationship with the organization. This page provides a hub for concise analyses by leading public health law and politics experts who break down why the WHO remains an essential actor in global public health and the current pandemic as well as considerations on how to strengthen the organization.

Policy Memos:

The American Public Trusts the WHO. That’s Vitally Important.
Renu Singh, Fellow, O’Neill Institute
The Main Point: Public trust in the WHO matters. Because more than three-quarters of Americans trust the WHO to manage the COVID-19 response, the organization’s scientifically-driven recommendations can change individual behavior despite government noncooperation – so long as it is not dragged into partisan political battles.

Defunding the WHO Will Hurt African Health Programs
Amy Patterson, Professor of Politics, University of the South;
Emmanuel Balogun, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Skidmore College
The Main Point: In addition to supporting work on AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and maternal and child health in Africa, funding the WHO lets the U.S. engage in global health diplomacy in the region. This collaboration is vital for coordinating a worldwide response to COVID-19.

How Funding the WHO Benefits U.S. Foreign Policy
Summer Marion, MALD | Research Fellow, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
The Main Point: Withdrawing from the WHO would hurt both US and global security – leaving a void private philanthropy cannot fill. Drawing on a TRIP Snap Poll conducted in April and May of 2020, it is clear that doubling down on global health investments safeguards longstanding bipartisan policy priorities and bolsters perceptions of the US as a global leader.

The WHO Reform Process – Opportunities and Challenges
Tine Hanrieder, Head of the Research Group Global Humanitarian Medicine at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Main point: Reform efforts at the WHO have been going on for years. New reformers should avoid past mistakes and build on these efforts in order to strengthen the WHO.