June 2, 2020

On May 29, President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO). The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) denounces this reckless decision, which will further weaken US global leadership and undermine efforts to improve health and combat pandemics worldwide.

“President Trump is destroying the United States’ standing as a global health leader,” said IWHC President Françoise Girard. “If he manages to withdraw the US from the WHO, the consequences will be dire. Women, girls, and marginalized people in the Global South depend on the WHO’s leadership, as has become especially obvious in the COVID-19 response. Now is the time for the United States to be an advocate for the health and rights of the most marginalized in the US and abroad. Instead, the president escalates his baseless assaults on the WHO.”

President Trump’s announcement is just the latest in a string of attacks by the Trump administration against the United Nations system, and the World Health Organization specifically. As the largest donor to the WHO and a major world power, the US has traditionally been the most powerful voice at the table. Yet the Trump administration has chosen to denounce the WHO and issue threats—including the recent freezing of funds—rather than use its considerable influence through diplomacy, collaboration, and constructive dialogue. This has rendered the US ineffective and invisible as the world confronts the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. The president’s inexplicable threat to withdraw from the organization further weakens the US’ ability to influence the WHO and its scope of work.

While the announcement sparked alarm from the WHO, US allies, and health experts worldwide, it is unclear if President Trump will be able to initiate the withdrawal. To withdraw, US law requires both a one-year notice and full payment of the US’ financial obligations for the WHO’s current fiscal year; the US currently owes more than $57 million in assessed contributions for FY2020 and nearly $100 million in total.

In response to the administration’s attacks on the WHO, IWHC mobilized 306 civil society organizations and nearly 400 individual activists to declare their support for the role of the UN and World Health Organization in the COVID response. IWHC will continue to work in partnership with the WHO toward our mutual goal of ensuring that all people can access the health care services they need and deserve.

Contact: Liza Kane-Hartnett; (+1) 917.498.3346

Photo: US Mission in Geneva