WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee overseeing multilateral institutions, released the following statement regarding the World Health Organization (WHO) and President Trump’s impending proposal to cut U.S. funding for the WHO. In January, Merkley led a bipartisan push for the WHO to declare the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, which the WHO did the day after Merkley’s call for action.
“Clearly, multiple failures at both the national and international level led to the pandemic disaster that we are facing today. As an international community, we must look critically at what went right and what went wrong in this global response, and learn from this so that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.
“It’s crucial that the United States is at the center of the discussion, not on the sidelines, as the international community determines what path the World Health Organization (WHO) takes moving forward. Cutting back on America’s support and involvement will mean that the United States does not have a full seat at the table during these discussions, and will only magnify the already troubling influence of China at the WHO.
“Additionally, the activities that are most needed right now to reopen society—global disease surveillance, information sharing, and technical assistance for testing and contact tracing—are exactly the activities that the WHO exists to help coordinate. Backing away from the WHO at this moment will inflict great damage on the United States, as well as the international community.
“The bottom line is that there will never be a way to prevent or mitigate pandemics without an effective, coordinated global response. We don’t know when the next pandemic will strike or where it will originate, but we do know that we will be doomed to repeat this nightmare if we don’t build a global health system that can do better. We need a global response ready to go that will have sufficient capacity for testing, tracing, research, vaccine and therapeutic development, and information sharing across borders. Now should be the moment to look deeply at our international health systems and to build a better, stronger path forward—not for America to retreat from the world and, in doing so, put American lives further at risk.”