WHO Failures and US Leadership During the Pandemic: USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick

June 2, 2020 Updated: June 16, 2020

“President Trump’s call for reform” of the World Health Organization (WHO) “is so key at this moment,” said Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in an interview with The Epoch Times for the “American Thought Leaders” program.

On May 18, President Donald Trump sent a letter to the WHO warning that the United States would permanently cut its funding in 30 days and reconsider its membership if the organization didn’t “commit to major substantive improvements” to demonstrate its “independence from China.”

President Donald Trump has been criticized for threatening to withhold funds from the WHO during a pandemic. But in Glick’s view, this was “the perfect time” to demand change “because we have captured the world’s attention and in so doing, we are shining light onto the way that WHO as an international organization should operate.”

“In no way is the United States withdrawing from its role as the leader of the free world and as the leader of the international community,” Glick said. “In fact, by calling for this review, we are exercising that leadership.”

Trump’s letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the WHO’s “failed response” to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

It calls out the WHO for not investigating credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan; ignoring information Taiwan provided on Dec. 31, 2019, about human-to-human transmission; echoing Beijing’s line and spreading misleading or inaccurate claims; and praising China for its “transparency” even though it initially attempted to cover up the outbreak, suppressed whistleblower doctors, and ordered samples of the virus to be destroyed.

Tedros’s decision to not give Taiwan observer status at the WHO—in contrast to prior heads of the WHO—is just another example of the “outsized control that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has over the operations, day-to-day and policy-wise, of the World Health Organization,” Glick said.

One month after Trump halted funding and announced a review of the WHO, a coalition of more than 100 countries, led by Australia, have now called for an independent inquiry into the WHO’s response to the outbreak.

“From our perspective at the U.S. Agency for International Development, this is a long time in coming,” Glick said.

During the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “we were noticing things that gave us pause,” Glick said. “We thought about calling WHO out,” but decided the timing wasn’t right.

“Then, before the Ebola crisis had a chance to recede, we are hit with a global pandemic,” Glick said.

In his letter, “Trump laid down the gauntlet” by demanding the WHO take swift steps toward reform, Glick said.

Coronavirus Foreign Aid

On May 20, the United States committed an additional $162 million to aiding the global response to CCP virus, bringing the grand total to more than $1 billion to help more than 120 countries with public health education, sanitation, hygiene, disease surveillance, rapid-response capacity, and emergency food assistance.

“The virus doesn’t know any boundaries. So we won’t be safe here if we aren’t investing in our approach to the virus internationally,” Glick said.

“Compared with the trillions of dollars of investment that we’re making as a nation into our own response,” these numbers are not a huge investment in the long-run.

“We’re working closely with countries to help them shore up their abilities to respond when coronavirus hits their shores,” Glick said.

The United States is also shipping critical medical supplies to other countries. USAID’s first donation of U.S.-made ventilators to South Africa arrived on May 11.

“We’re looking not just at shipping ventilators but also oxygen, training people in the use of these things, so that they can be deployed rapidly in hospital settings around the world,” Glick said.

American Aid versus Chinese Aid

In the interview, Glick also underscored the radical difference between aid from the United States and aid from communist China.

“In general, our goal, as it relates to foreign assistance, is ultimately to end the need for its existence,” Glick said, by working with countries toward achieving self-reliance and one day becoming donors themselves.

Israel and South Korea are two examples of success, Glick said.

“Israel used to be one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, and it is now a donor country with whom we partner, particularly in Africa,” she explained.

South Korea, similarly received large amounts of aid after the Korean War. Now, both South Korea and Israel have become two of the United States’ close allies.

On the other hand, the Chinese communist approach to foreign assistance is to create “perpetual dependence on the People’s Republic of China,” Glick said.

In recent years, the regime has aggressively pushed its massive infrastructure investment project, the Belt and Road Initiative (also known as One Belt, One Road), which aims to connect Europe, Africa, and Asia via a network of ports, railways, and roads.

The Chinese regime systematically targets developing countries that have strategic value or are rich in natural resources and approaches them with attractive promises of infrastructure development and generous loans.

Sri Lanka built a port in Hambantota by taking loans from China. It was promised 10,000 port calls a year, but in the first year of operation, saw only 37, Glick said.

“When it became clear that Sri Lanka would not be able to pay that debt servicing, China swooped in and has taken a 99-year concessionary lease possession of Sri Lanka’s largest world-class port,” Glick said.

The same thing happened with Djibouti. The Chinese regime helped Djibouti build a port located strategically on the entrance to the Red Sea. Djibouti defaulted on its loan, and China now controls this port, Glick said.

For Glick, the Belt and Road Initiative is more aptly described as “one belt, one road, one-way trip to insoluble debt.”

Because of the pandemic, both the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund have urged the G-20 economies to offer debt relief to the world’s poorest nations so they can focus on fighting the CCP virus.

Initially, Chinese leadership responded favorably, Glick said, but they “started putting all kinds of conditions on what type of debt would be considered for debt forgiveness, carefully trying to thread the needle to keep bilateral debt owed to the People’s Republic of China off the table.”

American Thought Leaders is an Epoch Times show available on FacebookYouTube, and The Epoch Times website.

Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek