The Chronic Crisis in WHO Financing: A Temperature Check on Member States' Commitments [Sustainable Financing Update]
Newsletter Edition #132 [The Friday Deep Dives]
Growing up in India, at the cusp of economic reforms, I often heard that the public sector is a headache, so let’s cut off the head. Clearly, not advisable. I was reminded of this, writing today’s story on WHO’s finances.
Some member states are allegedly concerned about efficiencies and accountability at WHO, while weighing their decision to support an increase in assessed contributions. While accountability in the public sector is crucial, we believe that financing and transparency are two separate issues, although they are connected.
The chronic under-funding of WHO is as much about money, as it is about power. Denying adequate financing to WHO is actually about impinging on it’s power.
Even as there is no consensus yet on the increase in membership dues, it appears countries have reconciled to the replenishment approach for WHO to meet at least some of its financing needs. This will surely determine the direction of this organization.
Countries’ response to this financing crisis is indeed a temperature check, on how serious they are about sustaining the leadership role of WHO. It is increasingly clear that countries are not serious enough.
It seems that countries do want a strong WHO, but only so strong, not much so as not to threaten the delicate apple cart that keeps status quo and the money flowing into powerful global health agencies backed by influential funders.
A high-powered consultant in Geneva told us recently, it does not matter whether the WHO is adequately funded, the action is elsewhere. Indeed, and with consequences we do not fully understand.
Until next week.
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STORY OF THE WEEK
The Chronic Crisis in WHO Financing: A Temperature Check on Member States' Commitments
Sustainable Financing Working Group Final Meeting Next Week
WHO member states have so far struggled to reach a consensus on increasing their assessed contributions that would make the organization’s financing more predictable and sustainable. That window of making this decision may be closing fast, also given the simultaneous proposals that will transform global health financing in a post-pandemic world.
The Bureau of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing has recommended that the World Health Assembly in May, must commit to future incremental increases of assessed contributions to an eventual level of 50% of the budget for 2022–2023 base programmes. The first increase will take place in line with the approval of the Programme budget in May 2023 (for the biennium 2024–2025), according to a proposal made by the Bureau, ahead of its final meeting next week on April 25-27th. There appears to be no consensus yet on this proposal, marked in a blue in a document published on the WHO website.
In meantime, G20 has endorsed the approach towards a Financial Intermediary Fund birthed at the World Bank. It was announced earlier this week, that “the G20 has reached a consensus to address the gap by establishing a new financial mechanism dedicated to addressing the financing gap for pandemic preparedness, prevention and action. A Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) housed at the World Bank is the most effective option for a new financial mechanism.”
These decisions are being made in the backdrop of several replenishments for global health agencies, the long shadow of the Ukrainian crisis, slashed budgets for fighting the pandemic, all of which will undoubtedly contribute to a shrinking of the dollars available for WHO.
German diplomat, Björn Kümmel, who has chaired the Sustainable Financing Working Group said this week at an event, that replenishments of nearly US $50 billion are expected this year for global health mechanisms, while WHO member states continue to debate US $1.2 billion over a period of eight years.
Further, any modest increase in membership fees could come with strings attached as determined by influential donor countries, Reuters also reported this week.
This story takes a look at the evolving nature of these multiple discussions that will alter global health financing in the wake of the worst health emergency in a century.