Archive for April 13th, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

Have a Guess why WHO Director-General Tedros thinks he’s right

First off, I want you to know that I have signed this petition, and that I would like to encourage you to sign it, too. My main reason to ask for Dr. Tedros’ resignation is that he supports a policy of locking more than 20 million Taiwanese people out of the World Health Organization (WHO). That scandal didn’t start with his tenure, and has been WHO policy for a long time, but it is now exacting a price in terms of global health. Taiwan could share its eperience in a so far successful fight against COVID-19. Taiwan could also contribute financially. Taiwan seems to have warned the WHO on December 31, in an email query to the organization. And the WHO leadership appears to be unwilling to take this into account and make a wiser decision than in the past.

I don’t feel a personal dislike for Tedros, and I think that many “social media” remarks about him are inappropriate, and actually false assertions.

But every public official must be accountable to the people he serves, or claims to serve. That’s why I believe that the WHO’s director general should clear the way for a successor with a more inclusive policy than his.

It doesn’t help when people insult each other. Above all, character assassination blinds for the more likely facts and factors in political processes. Both sides are wrong when accusing each other of “politicizing” issues. WHO is inevitably about politics, because it depends on the funding of governments with very different interests, and different economic capabilities to contribute to the WHO’s work. The demands of the world’s poorest, as elementary and obvious as they may be, are also political. And China’s cover-up approach is political, too. Everything is politics – that’s no suitable swearword to use for either WHO officials, or their critics.

It is true however that when you look at the mere numbers – in million US-$ -, China’s influence on the WHO doesn’t seem to make sense:

member state fees1) voluntary2)   total
USA 57.9 401.1 459.0
China 28.7 16.9 45.6
Japan 20.5 46.7 67.2
Germany 14.6 89.9 104.5
United Kingdom 10.9 163.7 174.6

Then why the WHO’s understatement when China covered up their SARS-2 cases, why the blind eyes to Taiwan’s warning query in December 31 (not to mention the WHO’s discrimination of Taiwan in general), and why the WHO director-general’s generally meek interaction with Beijing?

  • Trump is toying with the idea of reducing America’s contributions. Any WHO director general has to plan ahead, especially when the organizations main stakeholder becomes unreliable.
  • Tedros is probably convinced that he is doing the right thing by chumming up to China. Losing people to disease is unacceptable for him, and that much is credible. There is no way that WHO can enforce transparency on the ground – be it in China, be it in any other countries, though smaller countries may be more susceptible to pressure. And conceited leaders (like China’s) are more susceptible to flattery. (That, of course, doesn’t make it right to help them downplay a crisis, neither knowingly nor unknowingly. But it may become a more understandable approach, when you keep in mind that understanding something isn’t the same thing as condoning it.)
  • Then there is a – supposed – trend. While Taiwan would probably contribute as much today as does China, it could be different in future. That’s what most in the global political class expect to happen. They may have to think again – China is regularly overestimated. While questionable statistics have often help its image among foreigners, forgery will backfire when it does damage to the faithful foreigners’ home countries. (Never mind a million “extremist” inmates in Chinese internment camps – that’s far, far away.)

It makes no sense to demonize Tedros. He isn’t much different from most national or business leaders when it comes to dealing with China. The difference of course is that national leaders are usually held accountable, sometimes more, sometimes less, but more so than heads of international institutions. That’s why African politicians do criticize China for the way Africans have been treated in Guangzhou, while Tedros, who had shortly before tried to mobilize African public opinion in his favor and against “Taiwanese racism” remains oddly silent now.

But of course, it makes no sense to defend Tedros’ policies, either.

I would still prefer some civility in the effort to make him go. One doesn’t need to hate or disdain a man who oppose him. Rather, you can oppose him more effectively when you try to understand him and his supporters.
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Notes

1) Source for obligatory contributions
2) Source for voluntary contributions
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