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US opposing plans to make WHO more independent: Report

US opposing plans to make WHO more  independent: Report

The United States is at the forefront of opposing a proposal that would help the World Health Organisation (WHO) become more independent and able to criticise member states in case of missteps, unnamed European officials told Reuters in an exclusive report.

The current proposals under discussion would help bolster the "core funding" at the heart of WHO, while also decreasing it's reliance on voluntary funding from member states and organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which makes it less able to critique specific countries or organisations.

The proposal, published on January 4, calls for member states' mandatory contributions to rise gradually from 2024 so they would account for half the agency's $2 billion core budget by 2028, compared to less than 20% now, the document said.

But the U.S. government is opposing the reform because it has concerns about the WHO's ability to confront future threats, including from China, U.S. officials told Reuters. It is pushing instead for the creation of a separate fund, directly controlled by donors, that would finance prevention and control of health emergencies, Reuters reported.

The proposal is to be discussed at the WHO's executive board meeting next week but the divisions mean no agreement is expected, three of the officials said. Counties like Germany, South Asian countries and Arab countries are supporting the proposal.

WHO has been looking at systemic reforms but the Biden administration - which took America back into the WHO fold after former President Donald Trump pulled out due to disagreements over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic - is still sceptical about the organisation's effectiveness and what it could do in the face of Chinese pressure.

One European official said the U.S. plan "causes scepticism among many countries", and said the creation of a new structure controlled by donors, rather than by the WHO, would weaken the agency's ability to combat future pandemics, Reuters said.

One of the European officials said other big countries, including Japan and Brazil, were also hesitant about the published WHO proposal. Two of the European officials said China had not yet made its position clear, while a third official listed Beijing among the critics of the proposal.

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