Upholding human rights, defending multilateralism and promoting global solidarity

Reasons for supporting the WHO post COVID-19

Elly Howse and Adrian Bauman

The global spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have led to criticism about the capacity of individual nation states and multilateral organisations to respond effectively. On the receiving end of this criticism is the World Health Organization (WHO). Some of the criticism includes that WHO did not declare a pandemic soon enough, that WHO’s activities are being curtailed or unduly influenced by a specific nation state, and more general criticism that WHO is an ineffective international body during a pandemic. In Australia, a small number of MPs and Senators have questioned the value of Australia’s engagement with the WHO and called for Australia’s WHO funding to be reviewed.

At best, much of this criticism ignores the history of the WHO, including the important role that Australia played in its formation – Australia was one of the original signatories of the WHO Constitution in 1946. This criticism also ignores the broader influence of figures such as Herbert ‘Doc’ Evatt on the development of multilateral organisations like WHO and the United Nations during this critical period of peace making after World War II.