The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday said he hopes the United States will reconsider its decision to withdraw from the United Nations health agency as tensions between the U.S. and WHO have escalated over several months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the U.S. formally submitted its withdrawal notification to the United Nations secretary-general after months of threats from the Trump administration to pull out of the organization.
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The U.S. contributes upwards of $400 million annually to the WHO — making it the group’s largest contributor.
“The problem is not about the money, it’s not the financing that’s the issue. It’s actually the relationship with the U.S. that’s more important and its leadership abroad,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt hosted by Aspen Security Forum.
“I’ve said it many times, you cannot defeat this dangerous enemy in a divided world. We need a united world, and a united world needs cooperation and solidarity among its major powers,” Tedros said.
“We hope the U.S. will reconsider its position,” he added.
President Trump has cited an alleged bias in favor of China, the misuse of funds and a slow response to the original outbreak in Wuhan as primary reasons behind his decision to exit the health organization.
“If there are issues with the WHO or the U.N. system at large, you know, we’re very open for any evaluation or assessment, and the truth can be known,” Tedros said. “This can be done from inside without leaving the organization.”
The health official said during the interview that U.S. officials are still “participating actively” with the agency’s response to the pandemic.
Withdrawal requires a year’s notice, so it will not go into effect until July 6, 2021, raising the possibility the decision could be reversed.
The move by the Trump administration was criticized by many public health experts and Democratic lawmakers who said the decision may be short-sighted and could hinder the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.