The State Department on Thursday announced what it described as the “next steps” in the U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO), including recalling officials from headquarters and “redirecting” resources.
President Trump announced in May that the U.S. would withdraw from the controversial organization over its failure to enact reforms in the agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as what the president called its pro-China bias.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said at the time.
The U.S. is now on track to complete its withdrawal by July of next year. As part of that move, the State Department announced on Thursday a “redirection” of resources that includes moving the remaining Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 contributions to the WHO to partially pay for other U.N. contributions.
In addition, through July 2021, the United States will scale down its engagement with the WHO, to include recalling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailees from WHO headquarters, regional offices and country offices, and “reassigning these experts,” the department said in a statement. “U.S. participation in WHO technical meetings and events will be determined on a case-by-case basis.”
The department reiterated the Trump administration’s claim that the WHO has “failed badly” in its response to the coronavirus pandemic and other health crises in the last decade.
It said it has also been working to identify partners “to assume the activities previously undertaken by WHO.”
The U.S. had been the top contributor to the agency to the tune of approximately $450 million a year.
The Trump administration had raised concerns about WHO officials’ praise of Chinese “transparency,” its ignoring of warnings about the virus from Taiwan, and its repetition of Chinese claims that COVID-19 could not be spread from person-to-person. Trump has also pointed to opposition from WHO officials to his decision to place a travel ban on China in the initial days of the crisis.
“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities,” Trump said in May. “Countless lives have been taken and profound economic hardship has been inflicted across the globe.”