Back in the WHO

President Joe Biden signs a series of orders after being sworn in at the US Capitol. January 20, 2021. Image: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty
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President Joe Biden signs a series of orders after being sworn in at the US Capitol. January 20, 2021. Image: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Somewhere in the stack of executive orders President Biden signed on his first day was one that halted his predecessor’s attempted departure from the WHO.
 
The move recommits the US—WHO’s largest funding source—to the Geneva-based organization and to multilateral engagement in global health. Hours after Biden inked the change, Anthony Fauci was addressing the WHO’s Executive Board via an early-morning video conference today, AP reports

That's Not All: The Biden administration also signed the country up for COVAX, the WHO’s multilateral push to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Inside Take: The marked shift from acrimony to chumminess was highlighted as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus referred to Fauci as “my brother Tony.”

But: Appreciation for US leadership is no sure thing after “months of WHO-bashing, threats and domestic chaos,” The Washington Post reports. Humility will be key to America’s global re-engagement, as Loyce Pace—a member of Biden’s now-dissolved COVID-19 transition team, told GHN in November.

Not All Roses: WHO is also on the defensive, as fundamental issues are laid bare by questions around the agency’s engagement with China at the start of the pandemic.
 
“The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose,” an independent panel concluded Monday. “The World Health Organization has been underpowered to do the job.”

House Republicans Went Further: They blasted re-engagement with an organization they view as an “echo chamber for China's propaganda” and undeserving of taxpayer dollars, The Hill reports.

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