Trump gives World Health Organisation ultimatum: Change or US will permanently stop its funding

President gives WHO 30 days to make "substantive changes" before pulling funding

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 19 May 2020 17:30 BST
WHO boss promises independent evaluation of coronavirus response

President Donald Trump has offered an ultimatum to the World Health Organisation; make "major substantive improvements" or he will permanently halt US contributions.

A letter signed by Mr Trump was sent to the organisation explaining the ultimatum. Mr Trump later shared the letter on Twitter.

The president claims the WHO "consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019" and "failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government's official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself."

The letter's overall argument is that the WHO did not do enough to question and defy China while investigating the early spread of the coronavirus. Almost every one of the more than a dozen criticisms levied at the organisation is rooted in an allegation towards the Chinese government, and the ultimatum offered in the letter is tied directly to the WHO picking sides between the US and China.

"Throughout this crisis, the World Health Organisation has been curiously insistent on praising China for its alleged 'transparency,'" Mr Trump said.

After the long list of grievances, the letter concludes by suggesting the WHO's response and "missteps" have been "extremely costly for the world" and calls for the organisation to be tougher on China.

"The only way forward for the World Health Organisation is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China. My Administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organisation. But action is needed quickly," Mr Trump wrote. "...if the World Health Organisation does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organisation permanent and reconsider our membership in the organisation."

He then says he "cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organisation that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America's interests."

For the last two years, the US's contribution to the WHO comprised approximately 20 per cent of its budget. US funding to the WHO has been frozen since 14 April when Mr Trump suspended payments pending an examination of the body's response to the coronavirus outbreak.

As the pandemic began to spread throughout the US, messaging from the White House casting China as an antagonistic force began to intensify. Two months prior, on 24 January, Mr Trump praised China for its "transparency."

Since then, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made and walked back suggestions that the coronavirus was created in research labs in Wuhan, has demanded G8 delegates call the virus the "Wuhan Virus" and has suggested that China's contributions to global pandemic relief efforts are ploys to improve its public image.

Regardless of Mr Trump's ultimate agenda, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he would support an independent review of the global response to the pandemic.

"I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response," Mr Tedros said. "To be truly comprehensive, such an evaluation must encompass the entirety of the response by all actors, in good faith.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in