A Replenishment Model for WHO

Faced with inadequate and uncertain support for a meaningful increase in assessed contributions from WHO member states, the Sustainable Financing Working Group has been left to contend with what seems to be an inevitable dependence on the replenishment model to shore up finances for the organization. Without enough resources from its member states, WHO may be forced to depend on donor funds to meet its mandate, sources familiar with the discussions say.

In its fourth meeting this year, the working group met this week to review essential functions of WHO and the ways to fund these in a sustainable manner. Diplomats said that the group “gave up” on trying to prioritise WHO’s essential functions given the diversity of the needs of its member states. Instead, there is a growing recognition that in order to grow the pie of finances, without shrinking WHO’s functions, the replenishment model may be one of the preferred approaches to do so.  Even if this increases the organization’s dependence on select donors, making it vulnerable to uncertainties and influences of its donors. Nevertheless, countries hope they will be able to put in place mechanisms for greater transparency and insulate WHO from some of these influences.

The Independent Expert Oversight Advisory Committee, for example, suggested “a substantial increase of the share of assessed contributions in overall WHO financing”. It had suggested introducing annual increase of ACs (essentially membership fees) in line with previous years world GDP growth and defining major expenditure of WHO that must be  financed sustainably. It also recommended considering a change of the calculation formula for assessed contributions in order to ensure “stable contribution in real terms”

The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB Report “A world in disorder”) had also called for a sustained investment in prevention and preparedness, commensurate with the scale of a pandemic threat.

However, despite the pressures to enlarge WHO finances primarily by way of member states’ contributions, there is a perception that it will be difficult for some countries to treble or even double contributions in the context of unwillingness and constrained fiscal realities in many countries.

To meet the objective of funding at least half of WHO’s base budget by assessed contributions, would mean at least doubling assessed contributions across the 194 member states of WHO, health diplomats in Geneva say. (Covering the entire base budget through assessed contributions would mean quadrupling these fees.)

(See our earlier story on assessed contributions and the problems with narrowing down WHO priorities in the context of financing)

Image credit: Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels

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