President Trump’s decision to cut funding to the World Health Organisation calls for a “Love Actually” moment.

There is a precedent. One of George W. Bush’s first acts as president in 2006 was to reinstate the “global gag rule” which withdrew US aid from organisations that counsel women about abortions or to advocate for liberalized abortion laws in their countries. In response, the UK Government offered to make up the funding to any organisation that lost out from George Bush’s political grandstanding. As a Brit, I was so proud.

The US provides about $500m a year to the WHO. It would not be too difficult for the rest of the world to step in and make up the difference from within our existing aid budgets.

Releasing the WHO from the dependence on US funding would be no bad thing. For example, the US put pressure on the WHO to moderate guidance against sugar consumption (a major cause of obesity and diabetes).

In a globalised world, we need effective, strong, independent global institutions. Under its current leadership, we cannot depend on the United States to contribute money or leadership to effective global cooperation; but we can step up ourselves.

Categories: Uncategorized

Owen Barder

Owen is CEO of Precision Agriculture for Development. He has worked in the office of the UK Prime Minister, the British Treasury, the Department for International Development; and at the Center for Global Development.


Toby · April 16, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Hi Owen,
Many internationally-funded institutions have far too much reliance on the US for their money. Moving away from that focus can only be a good thing, especially when we consider who is in charge of that country. But ‘W’ was president from 2000 until 2008. An action he did in 2006 can not be described as ‘one of his first … as president’. Either the timing or the description of the act is not correct.

Links round-up | The CSAE Blog · April 20, 2020 at 7:13 am

[…] Liberia having just one ventilator in the whole country): Project Syndicate and VoxEU. Owen Barder calls for the US’s freeze in WHO funding to be made up by other countries, pointing out less US influence in this sphere is probably  good thing (can someone explain […]

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