Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said on Thursday that he hopes the US will reconsider its decision to withdraw from WHO – and that the problem the withdrawal creates is not financial, but the lack of solidarity between global leaders.
President Trump announced at the end of May that the US will end its relationship with WHO, the world’s preeminent health organization.
“Now, it’s time to work together. Now, it’s time to focus on fighting the virus. So I hope the US will reconsider its position,” Tedros said during a panel event at the Aspen Security Forum.
“When the US decided to withdraw, the problem is not about the money. It’s not the financing issue,” he said. “It’s actually the relationship with the US which is more important, and it’s leadership role.”
Tedros said he has said many times that “you cannot defeat this dangerous enemy in a divided world. We need a united world.”
A united world needs cooperation and solidarity among major powers, he said.
“Multi-lateral organizations can only support, like WHO, the leaders always have been countries, and especially the major ones, who can bring the whole world together,” Tedros said. “So that is more important for WHO, the void, not the financial.”
He said there is still communication between WHO and the US, and that they are working together – but he hopes that the relationship will “return to normal, and a stronger relationship than ever before.”
Tedros said the US has always been known for its generosity, support and leadership in global health. He detailed how during his time as a minister in Ethiopia, while HIV/AIDS was ravaging the continent and the rest of the world, US leadership and generosity gave hope to many.
He also said that if there were problems or issues with WHO or the UN system at large, they would be very open to any evaluations or assessments.
“The truth can be known, and this can be done from inside, without leaving the organization,” he said. “Knowing the truth is very important for the whole world.”
Lessons need to be learned from what is happening and what has happened, Tedros said, and the future needs to be built together.
“If there is any problem, we will find out and we will learn from it,” Tedros said.
Later in the session, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s health emergencies program, thanked the United States and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their continued contribution to global public health.
“The politics of these things will never shake the bonds that scientists have around the world, and the urge and the desire we have to work together to save lives,” he said.