Germany and France want to give more money and power to the World Health Organization after the Covid-19 pandemic underscored long-standing financial and legal weaknesses at the UN agency, an internal document seen by Reuters shows.
The proposed reforms could already be discussed at the WHO in mid-September, Reuters reports, in a fast timeline that would confirm the two European powers’ growing concerns about the organisation, which they also see as excessively subject to external influences.
In a joint paper circulated among diplomats involved in the reform talks, Berlin and Paris said the WHO’s mandate, which includes preventing outbreaks across the world and helping governments tackle them, was not backed up by sufficient financial resources and legal powers.
“Not only during the current pandemic, it has become clear that the WHO partly lacks the abilities to fulfil this mandate,” the document seen by Reuters said.
France and Germany are seeking consensus “from Washington to Beijing” around the document, a source close to the talks said.
The move shows the two countries’ keen interest in an overhaul aimed at strengthening the WHO, despite talks on the matter with the US collapsing earlier in August at G7 level over differing views about the reform.
France and Germany, whose health ministers pledged new funds after talks with the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in June, have not hidden their criticism of the WHO.
But their approach is very different from that of the Trump administration, which has cut funding, announced its withdrawal from next July and accused Tedros of being a puppet of China.
The Franco-German reform plan is focused on strengthening the WHO, in part to empower it to be able to be more critical of member states if they do not honour global rules on transparency in reporting health and disease issues.
A German government official, asked to comment on the document, said: “Germany together with others wants a reform, talks are under way on different levels.”