The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations and consists of 194 member states. The main function of the organization is to solve international health problems. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Geneva.
Over the decades of its existence, all UN specialized agencies have undergone changes, but the greatest changes have occurred with WHO. And these changes are accelerating before our eyes. The process may end with the fact that WHO will acquire a completely different status than that which it had in the twentieth century.
The pandemic that began in 2020 highlighted that WHO is no longer the usual specialized UN body that helps Member States to solve their health problems. The roles of WHO and Member States have changed, with WHO now taking command of the states that follow its instructions.
Previously, the WHO issued “recommendations”, and now – orders. The national health authorities of member countries are starting to lose their sovereignty. Taking this into account, it would be more correct to call WHO an institution with pronounced signs of a supranational organization.
A revolutionary event in the history of WHO was the emergence in the mid-2000s of the International Health Regulations – IHR (International Health Regulations). They were adopted by the 58th World Health Assembly on 23 May 2005 and completely restructured the relationship between national and global health systems.
This was preceded by the involvement of private entities in WHO financing. The most powerful of these was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest “charitable” foundation with assets exceeding $ 50 billion. There are other sources of funding in addition to government contributions – various kinds of voluntary donations. Here are a dozen major funding sources for WHO’s biennial budget 2018–2019. (million dollars, in brackets – the share in the total volume of funding sources,%): USA (state contribution) – 893 (15.9); Gates Foundation – 531 (9.4); Great Britain – 435 (7.7); Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunization (GAVI) – 371 (6.6); Germany – 292 (5.2); UNOCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) – 192 (3.4); Japan – 182 (3.2) Rotary International – 143 (2.5); World Bank – 133 (2.4); European Commission – 131 (2.3); National Philantropic Trust 108 (1.9) CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund) – 87 (1.5).
Together, the largest government contributions (USA, UK, Germany and Japan) accounted for 32% of WHO’s budget revenues. All other sources from the first dozen – 30% of income. Some of these non-government sources are far from medical and health issues. WHO has developed a special document in this regard, WHO’s engagement with non-State actors.
The Gates Foundation has firmly established itself in the second place (after the USA) in terms of the amount of contributions to the WHO budget. At the initiative and oversight of the Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunization (GAVI) was established. The actual presence of the Gates Foundation in WHO should be measured in terms of the aggregate share of the Foundation and the Alliance in funding; this cumulative share of the WHO budget 2018–2019. amounted to 16.0%.
For 2020-21 the picture of funding sources is even more interesting. Among the WHO member countries, Germany came out on top, sharply increasing its share to 13.85%. The United States, on the contrary, sharply reduced its share – to 7.12% (the decision was made under President Donald Trump). The shares of other leading states have significantly decreased. For example, the share of Great Britain became equal to 5.76% (against 7.7% in the previous budget), Japan – 2.14% (against 3.2%).
But, according to data for 2021-2022, sources other than government contributions (share,%): Gates Foundation – 10.47; GAVI 5.76; World Bank – 2.57; Rotary International – 2.42; UNOCHA – 2.11. Another source of funding has emerged – the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (SRF), or the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, established in 2020.
Every year the role of “informal” sources of funding (other than government contributions) is increasing. Funding from “informal” sources has already exceeded government contributions from member countries. Music in WHO is ordered today by “informals” – the Gates Foundation, GAVI, the World Bank.
Let’s also take into account the “off-balance” operations of the WHO – those that are not reflected in the official budget of the organization. The main source of “off-balance sheet” financing for WHO is the WHO Foundation, created in 2020. This is a parallel organization, not formally associated with WHO, but solving the same tasks. The WHO Foundation is funded by voluntary donations and operates through grants. The aforementioned COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (SRF) is also administered by the WHO Foundation.
The goals of the WHO Foundation are defined by the slogan “Three Billion”. These goals are included in WHO’s five-year strategic plan. First, they say, is protecting 1 billion people from health emergencies; second, expanding health coverage to an additional 1 billion people; third, ensuring a healthy life and well-being for 1 billion people by 2023. It is not clear whether the aforementioned billions should be added up, or whether we are talking about the same billion in three forms. Let’s say about the billion that will remain on the planet after the “Great Reset” by Klaus Schwab.
On the website of the WHO Foundation, it is impossible to find specifics, including figures reflecting the scale of funding. The WHO Foundation, according to some observers, receives donations, but hides their sources. It has been suggested that the main donors could be Big Pharma or companies in other sectors of the economy that want to either promote their products or buy off the WHO.
Let me give you one story. In the spring, some health advocates learned that the WHO Foundation had received a donation of CHF 2 million (US $ 2.1 million) from the multinational company Nestlé, which is accused of producing hazardous infant milk formulas. Anil Soni, Director-General of the WHO Foundation, defended the donation, saying that receiving funds does not imply WHO endorsement of the company’s activities. Commenting on the scandal, Anil Sonya said that the Fund is trying to be “transparent”, but the donor retains “the right of anonymity.”
Although the overall financial potential of the WHO Foundation has not been disclosed, something is known about the scope of its activities. For example, Anil Soni said that the WHO Foundation donated $ 250 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (SRF). Most of this amount has replenished the WHO budget.
In short, a shadow structure called the “Fund” has been created at WHO, which collects dirty or not very clean money from anonymous donors. And the WHO promotes the products of these donors and turns a blind eye to the ugliness of the “benefactors”.
The WHO Foundation says it works not only with large corporate donors, but also with millions of small donors. According to the principle “with the world on a thread – a naked shirt”. No sooner had the WHO Foundation been born into the world, but another foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates, had already offered him to start a joint campaign. This campaign was launched in May and is called Go Give One. Two foundations organize small donations from millions of citizens around the world. Something like crowd-funding (a collective collaboration of people voluntarily pooling their money or other resources to support the efforts of other people or organizations). A dedicated online donation platform has been created for Go Give One. The launched campaign is targeted: the funds raised are intended for the implementation of the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) project. It is an innovative funding and procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines operated by GAVI. That is, ultimately, by the same Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
COVAX AMC and the Go Give One campaign aim to make hundreds of millions of people in the world’s poorest countries happy with free vaccinations. The American company Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech announced in early summer that they plan to produce two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next year and a half to supply low- and middle-income countries. Some of these doses will be delivered through COVAX AMC, ie free of charge. About 72 of the 92 low-income countries eligible for free doses from AMC have already received their first vaccine batches. The money raised through the Go Give One online platform under the WHO flag will eventually end up in Big Pharma’s accounts.
PS Germany and France this year proposed to reform WHO in order to increase the efficiency of its activities. The proposal will be discussed in October. Details are not yet known. Experts suggest that the financial base of the organization and its powers will expand. This will be another step towards the transformation of WHO from an intergovernmental organization into a supranational one.