Member states could consider paying more to support WHO, some remain unwilling

In a rare but crucial opportunity, WHO member states are now poised to seize the moment and finally decide to pay more to support the organization which they see as a leading authority to protect and shape health outcomes for people globally. Or, nationalistic considerations may win and they may let this moment pass, sealing the fate of WHO. This would further marginalize and weaken WHO’s role in global health governance precisely when a health crisis has struck a blow at the heart of how the world functions.

WHO’s Sustainable Financing Working Group will meet next week to discuss recommendations on the way forward to strengthen the organization’s finances. Member states will consult and negotiate on a report that will be submitted to the Executive Board in January 2022.

Early indications suggest that while much of the developing world has expressed support for a gradual and sustained increase in assessed contributions, some of the bigger member states are cautious about the increase in membership fees, given the implication on their contributions in absolute terms, sources familiar with the discussions, told Geneva Health Files.

So, while there seems to be significant support for an increase in assessed contributions to make WHO financing more predictable and independent of influences, it will remain to be seen, whether in the coming weeks, countries will agree to commit to an increase. Sources said that a consensus on the decision will be needed involving all 194 member states. And this, therefore, leads to uncertainty if even a small group of countries decide not to support an increase in assessed contributions.

In its report, the working group has settled on meeting 50% of the base programme through assessed contributions and the remaining, potentially through a replenishment approach.

Sources indicate that a small group of traditional top donors will pay for the bulk of the increase, but that should not stop others from paying what is due to them as per the UN scale of assessments. By one rough estimate for every two dollars paid by the top four donors, the remaining 190 member states will have to pay a corresponding dollar together.

As per current proposals, an increase of roughly $1.2 billion per biennium to be reached over a period of six years has been suggested. (This assumes the approved scale of assessment for 2022–2023.) If approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2022, such an increase would kick-in starting 2024. This leaves all governments adequate time to prepare for this increase, taking the current fiscal constraints into account, officials familiar with the discussions said.

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