Fauci will head the U.S. delegation to WHO as Biden plans to reverse Trump’s withdrawal

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed Dr. Anthony Fauci was selected to lead a U.S. delegation to the World Health Organization’s annual meeting this week, undoing outgoing President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the international aid group.

The new government plans to work with WHO on an international Covid Response Plan as one of Biden’s first major policy changes, the transition team said hours before his inauguration on Wednesday.

Biden’s transition team said Fauci will make comments to WHO on Thursday at their annual board meetings.

“Once the United States resumes its relationship with WHO, the Biden Harris Administration will work with WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the Organization, support and provide COVID-19 health and humanitarian aid advance global health and health security. ” “said the transition team in a statement.

The reintegration into the United Nations Health Organization is one of the most important changes Biden plans to make to combat the global pandemic. He also plans to enact executive ordinance on Wednesday “requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, in all states, and by federal employees and contractors.”

The changes will fulfill one of Biden’s key campaign promises. He vowed to rejoin the global health agency on his first day in office if he defeated Trump, whose decision to leave the WHO as America faced the worst coronavirus outbreak in any country in the world has received bipartisan criticism from lawmakers.

“WHO looks forward to the delegation from the new US administration attending tomorrow’s board meeting,” said WHO spokesman Andrei Muchnik in a statement.

Trump announced in late May that the country would withdraw from the United Nations Health Department, but the process shouldn’t be completed until July this year. Trump repeatedly criticized the WHO for being too “China-centered” and denounced the disproportionate amount of funding the US had allocated to the agency compared to other countries.

Foreign Secretary-designate Antony Blinken told Senators Tuesday during his confirmation hearing that the United States will also be participating in Covax, the global alliance aimed at providing low-income countries with coronavirus vaccines jointly managed by WHO. The Trump administration previously refused to participate in the program.

In April, Trump said his administration would stop funding the WHO while reviewing the agency’s role in “serious mismanagement and cover-up of the spread of the coronavirus”. The United States was the organization’s largest donor, providing nearly $ 893 million to the agency over the 2018 and 2019 fiscal cycle.

Whether the president was empowered to resign from WHO under US law also came up for debate, according to a June Congressional Research Service report. The answer would likely require a court to “address several complex first impression issues,” the bipartisan organization noted.

However, the Trump administration said in September that the US would “reduce” its commitment to WHO until it officially leaves. The US planned to call back health department personnel from all WHO offices, including its headquarters, and attend some of the organization’s meetings and events on a case-by-case basis, according to the State Department.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in August he hoped the United States would reconsider its decision to leave the organization. The problem is “not the money”, but the lack of cooperation amid the pandemic.

“It is actually the relationship with the US that is more important and its overseas leadership,” he said.

Tedros added that WHO is “very open to any assessment or evaluation” of its performance in response to the pandemic. In an interim review published on Monday, the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response criticized WHO for waiting until January 30 for an international health emergency to be declared.

“WHO is expected to validate outbreak reports for pandemic potential and deploy support and containment resources, but its powers and resources to carry out its duties are limited,” said panel co-chair and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a statement.

– CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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