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Biden Must Move Fast to Replace WHO’s Tedros

It will take an all-out diplomatic blitz to block the director-general’s impending reelection.

By Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2021, 2:58 PM

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is up for reelection. After repeatedly endorsing the Chinese Communist Party’s slow and secretive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and helping it conceal the origins of the outbreak, he is asking the United States and other WHO member nations to support his bid. U.S. President Joe Biden must now decide whether to support a candidate who habitually defers to Beijing or back another candidate who can steer the WHO in the direction of much-needed reform.

But there’s a big hitch: Although the election of the next director-general won’t take place until the May 2022 World Health Assembly, nominations are due later this month. All indications are that Tedros, formerly Ethiopia’s foreign affairs and health minister, will stand unopposed for a second five-year term. It’s a glaring failure of the Biden administration not to have prepared an alternative. But if Washington focuses its energies, it may yet prevent Tedros’ reelection—and with it, a victory for the broken status quo that harms both U.S. interests and global public health.

Since the earliest days of the pandemic, Tedros has been pandering to Beijing and helping it cover up its failures. In January 2020, he said that China’s “cooperation and transparency is very, very commendable, and we really appreciate [it].” That praise came three weeks after the Wuhan Public Security Bureau detained eight whistleblowers for trying to sound the alarm to the world about the unknown disease spreading in the city. One of the whistleblowers, a Wuhan doctor named Li Wenliang, died soon after his release from police detention after contracting the virus from his patients.

Foreign Policy

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