World, do forgive the reign of incompetence in the United States government.
The current administration seems to know little about the history or function of the United Nations.
They may not know that in 1939, it was the U.S. State Department that conceptualized the now 75-year-old international governing body of 193 member states.
They may not realize that it was an American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who coined the name for the organization during World War II, three years before the United Nations was officially established.
They may not comprehend the preamble of the UN Charter, which vows, among many things, “to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.”
They must be unaware that the United Nations is, in effect, an extension of the United States.
Granted, other than the headquarters towering over the East River in New York City’s Turtle Bay, the United Nations has a relatively small presence in American society. Given that the United States is the world’s largest economic superpower, the occasion is rare that it would find itself on the receiving end of humanitarian aid—the hallmark of UN interactions.
That is unless the humanitarian crisis in question is a pandemic, which made it so unsettling to hear Tuesday’s decision by the White House to halt funding to the UN’s World Health Organization amid a failed COVID-19 response blame game.
As the largest financial contributor, the United States chose an inopportune time to cut funding for what WHO’s Director-General described as an agency established to protect and promote the health of the world’s people.
In his thrice weekly WHO news conference, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus explained that the founding nations expressed “that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
The financial support works to strengthen health systems and improve the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries as they battle polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition and other ailments, Dr. Ghebreyesus said.
Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean are the main recipients of the goodwill efforts undertaken by the United Nations. They include many of the “poor countries” referenced when the impact of funding deficits are being measured.
Many “poor nations” in these regions share commonalities in their paths to poverty. Seldom, however, does the discussion address the colonization, occupation and exploitation that impoverished many of these countries. The conversation also doesn’t address how their “low-income status” was at the hands of many of the wealthier nations, which they now rely on for assistance, generosity and kindheartedness.
The United States and some of those other nations who built their wealth on the backs of these “poor countries” should remix two often quoted sayings: Ask not what the United Nations or its agencies can do for you but consider that to whom much has been taken, much should be given in return.
Like parents, the United Nations and its agencies claim that they don’t play favorites. Any observer can see that isn’t the case. Whether through acts of commission or omission, the United Nations and its agencies have a way of showing a form of favoritism to every country.
While it may seem that the United States receives nothing for their bountiful contributions, some might argue their special treatment comes in the form of accountability passes as they commit sanction-less atrocities caging children seeking asylum or decimating communities of color through mass incarceration. These passes are not as freely doled out when other countries commit comparable crimes against humanity.
The United Nations points few fingers; instead it stays focused on fund raising from the private sector and cheerful-giving member states to restore and redistribute resources in countries where wealth has been depleted.
Yesterday, as Dr. Ghebreyesus wrapped up his opening remarks, he mentioned that it was customary for WHO member states to review the responses for crises as improvements are made and lessons are learned.
Until then ...
“This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat—a dangerous enemy,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “When we are divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”