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Yes, Blame the WHO for Its Disastrous Coronavirus Response

Time was when the World Health Organization (WHO) was the least controversial of multilateral bodies. Its parent organization, the United Nations, is idealized by some but vilified by others. The International Monetary Fund inspires riots when it meets. The World Trade Organization has become a political punching bag. And the less said about the U.N. Human Rights Council, the better.

Yet from its founding in 1948 until the first decade of this century, the WHO was mainly known for defeating smallpox, fighting polio and tuberculosis, and providing support to poor countries that lacked sufficient health infrastructure. However, under the leadership of Margaret Chan, appointed director-general in 2006, and her successor since 2017, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO has bounced from scandal to scandal. Widely panned for mishandling the swine flu in 2009 and Ebola in 2014, it has also been embroiled in expenses scandals.

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Published inAll ArticlesForeign Policy
Sydney-based globalization expert Salvatore Babones is available to speak on the Chinese economy (demographics, growth, technology), the Belt & Road Initiative, global trade networks, and Australia-China relations. Contact: