EU calls for WHO reforms, seeks more transparency in pandemics

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 European countries have underlined the need to reform the World Health Organization after the devastating coronavirus pandemic exposed the agency's numerous shortcomings. —Courtesy photo
European countries have underlined the need to reform the World Health Organization after the devastating coronavirus pandemic exposed the agency's numerous shortcomings. —Courtesy photo

BRUSSELS — European countries have underlined the need to reform the World Health Organization after the devastating coronavirus pandemic exposed the agency's numerous shortcomings. They have called for the WHO to be given more powers to handle pandemics compel members.

The UN agency currently has no powers to independently investigate epidemics and must instead rely on countries to approve its list of proposed experts for any visit and is largely subject to an agenda set by the countries.

The call for the WHO reforms was made at a virtual meeting of EU health ministers on Friday in which they endorsed a document on the reform of the UN health agency.

The document outlines a series of sweeping changes needed to boost the WHO's powers and resources.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday the WHO should receive more political support and financial backing for its international efforts to manage acute health crises.

"The current pandemic challenges us very acutely ... but it is very important that the (WHO) reform debate is held in parallel," he said.

"The WHO can't be on its own and carry the weight of this pandemic alone," the German minister added.

He did not say when the reform process should begin but stressed that as a result of the overhaul the WHO should become faster in its reaction to health crises, while its member states should share more information in emergencies.

Stella Kyriakides, the EU Health Commissioner, noted that EU institutions provided $100 million to WHO last year.

The agency was repeatedly criticized by US President Donald Trump for "colluding" with China to cover up the initial extent of the pandemic. Trump later withdrew US funding for WHO — the US was the agency's single-biggest donor — and later pulled the US out of the organization altogether. — Agencies


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