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WHO Will Survive Wisely

World Health Organisation (WHO) 

World Health Organisation

  US President Donald Trump has recently threatened to discontinue financial aid to the World Health Organization (WHO) and exit the organization. Hearing this news, I returned to the days of about 40 years ago, when I had to deal with a similar threat from America. At that time, I was serving in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
It was May of 1982 when I went to Geneva to represent my country at the annual session of the World Health General Assembly. At that time more than 160 member countries of the organization were participating in the meeting and were going to discuss many important issues related to health and medicine for two weeks. The main agenda of the meeting was reduced to two committees, named 'A' and 'B'.

In the World Health General Assembly of 1982, I was unanimously assigned the chair of the 'B' committee. Our then Ambassador to Geneva, AP Venkateswaran, described the incident as India's 'diplomatic victory', especially because there was no attempt to create a public opinion for it. Like any other organization of the United Nations, member countries in the World Health Organization do not want to leave any such opportunity discussing health issues so that they get an opportunity to express their views on the immediate political dispute. Before the commencement of the proceedings of the World Health General Assembly, I carefully read the agenda assigned to my committee. Neither I nor my experienced Secretariat personnel realized that there was an issue in the list that would lead to controversy and would only threaten the existence of the World Health Organization.

It was, in effect, a draft resolution, introduced by a group of African-Arab countries. That resolution called for attention to the poor health of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territory. I had no doubt that the proposal would be disputed, as there were several other similar proposals seeking refugee refugees in Cyprus and Lebanon and health-related assistance to people in flood-affected areas of Yemen.

When this agenda was put forward, Halfdan Mahler, former director-general of the World Health Organization, was with me on the stage at the time. I allowed the head of the Palestinian delegation to present it. The agenda note, among other things, referenced the report of an expert committee on the subject, and reports from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Israeli Ministry of Health and a special UN agency to provide relief to Palestinian refugees. Was referring. The proposal not only sought to establish health centres in the occupied territory under the supervision of the World Health Organization but also referred to an earlier proposal of the United Nations General Assembly in this matter. Before I would call the next delegate to address the subject, the head of the American delegation, Dr John Bryant (he was also a member of the executive committee), immediately demanded to speak, while usually speaking to the country that proposed the proposal Only after the address of all the delegates has another member commented.

World Health Organization battle with covid-19

Bryant had serious objections to one part of the proposal. They believed that if it was accepted, the rights associated with Israeli membership would be affected. He announced that if the matter was discussed further, his country would stop its financial aid at the same time and exit the World Health Organization. At that time, half of the World Health Organization's budget depended on American aid. As Bryant completed his talk, representatives of Israel and several other countries stood up and supported the American position. In response, representatives of Palestine and several Arab and African countries also stood up and raised their voice in favour of Palestine. This was an unexpected situation.
Since peace was unable to be made despite repeated requests, I stopped the session for a while. After a brief discussion with Mahler, I went to the assembly hall and spent the next hour and a half talking to all the delegates who were involved in the controversy. 
In the conversation, I found that they are not willing to agree. I felt that if the situation was allowed to be uncontrollable, then the failure of my chairmanship would be tainted, as well as adversely affect the World Health Organization. Returning to the stage, I announced that my efforts to reconcile would continue and the committee would sit at the appointed time the next morning. For the next 12 hours, I held serious discussions with the heads of both sides and also met several eminent health ministers in the General Assembly. I also met Yasar Arafat, a respected Palestinian leader who arrived there late in the evening.

After several rounds of talks with Arab, African, Israeli, American and other related delegations, I succeeded in softening their stance. I persuaded them to prepare the original proposal afresh. By the time I started the meeting the next morning, there was peace in the hall. I briefly explained my efforts of the previous day and the changes made to the original proposal. After that read the revised proposal and asked if anyone objected? There was no protest from anywhere. So, I announced the passage of the resolution and hit my goal (hammer banging the bench) to talk on the next agenda. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and thus the World Health Organization was saved.

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