UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 14 May 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about reforming the WHO.

Syllabus: GS-II International Institutions, Public health


  • The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.
  • The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.

Reforming WHO:

  • In the 3rd year of pandemic, Indian PM once again brought up the much-discussed issue of reforming the World Health Organization while addressing the heads of countries at the second global COVID-19 summit.
  • The long delay and the reluctance of China to readily and quickly share vital information regarding the novel coronavirus, including the viral outbreak in Wuhan, and its stubborn refusal to allow the global agency to investigate, freely and fairly, the origin of the virus have highlighted the need to strengthen WHO.
  • It has come under fire in recent years for its heavy bureaucratic framework, which has led to inefficiencies, inertia, and even “over-reactions”.
    • During the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, the WHO was accused of overplaying the dangers of the virus and aligning with pharmaceutical interests.

Reforms suggested:

  • Any attempt to build a stronger WHO must first begin with increased mandatory funding by member states.
    • For several years, the mandatory contribution has accounted for less than a fourth of the total budget, thus reducing the level of predictability in WHO’s responses; the bulk of the funding is through voluntary contribution.
  • Importantly, it is time to provide the agency with more powers to demand that member states comply with the norms and to alert WHO in case of disease outbreaks that could cause global harm.
  • Under the legally binding international health regulations, member states are expected to have in place core capacities to identify, report and respond to public health emergencies.
    • Ironically, member states do not face penalties for non-compliance.
    • This has to change for any meaningful protection from future disease outbreaks.
  • The demand for a review of the vaccine approval process is based on the assumption that the emergency use listing (EUL) of Covaxin was intentionally delayed by the health agency, which has no basis.
    • Any reform in WHO should not dilute the vaccine approval process already in place.

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