The election of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to director-general of the World Health Organization in 2017 was a bit of a non-affair. Aside from a few squawks regarding his career in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the world barely noticed. And why should it?
Until recently, the WHO had little interaction with Western nations, leaving media outlets indifferent to its leadership squabbles. Ambivalence allowed China to influence the process. Having never met a violent, communist revolutionary political party it didn’t like, Tedros’s “Together for a Healthier World” ascended the throne.
In 2014, we missed the first chill of winter when the WHO dragged its heels, refusing to label an Ebola outbreak as an emergency for fear of aggravating delicate African economies. Despite the organisation’s primary mandate being the pursuit of health above politics, playing politics had become its overriding focus.
Deaths stacked up with sincere accusations that the WHO had become the most politicised of the UN agencies.
Tedros was elected amid pressure to reform this embarrassing mess while being guilty of the same behaviour. Under his watch as Ethiopia’s Health Minister, Cholera outbreaks were re-branded as AWD (acute watery diarrhoea) to save face and avoid international interference.
Considering this, it should come as no surprise that during the coronavirus pandemic, Tedros was happy to copy-paste propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party.
It does not matter whether a lab in Wuhan cooked up a bat-oriented bioweapon or if the unpalatable slaughter of animals was to blame, the disturbing fact remains that China successfully exerted pressure on an ‘independent’ organisation to cover its tracks. After the world swallowed its fury over the death toll and mortgaged civilisation to pay the bill, they started asking a dangerous question.
“Is the WHO worth it?”
The UN and EU are twins created to combat the rise of communism. Their tangle of treaties, courts and commissions are designed to dissuade democracies from acting undemocratically or tie them up in endless international courts if they misbehave. The problem with institutions built upon world peace is that they must endow themselves with great power to enforce it – power that is swiftly exploited by careerist dictators.
In 2020, irony would have it that a pack of communists hover dangerously close to ruling the imagined paradise.
If these international organisations are meant to be the cage of inconvenience keeping nations safe from each other’s ambitions, China has cut itself a key and regularly plucks feathers off its detractors so that if the doors are ever opened, no one will be able to fly except them.
Covid-19 broke the cage. The United States has stepped out and started inspecting its damaged wings. BREXIT achieved the same result within the European Union with the UK’s dramatic exit plunging the remaining members into financial disarray. With money tight, old resentments resurfaced and suddenly everyone’s talking about The War and wondering why they hooked up with Germany.
In truth, the UN, EU and WHO are a sad set of acronyms based on utopian ideology, not economics, even though on both accounts the latter will prove to be their undoing. They were versions of the same impossible desire for a peaceful, unified world. It does not matter if we talk of war, trade or pandemic; architects of these institutions believed that their fabric would act like geopolitical bubblewrap.
History’s victors were always careful never to write laws that could not be enforced or reasonably obeyed – to do so would be to invite mockery of their regimes. The UN knows it has no power to punish China over its human rights violations, so they hand them pamphlets about how to be better people.
The world might be prepared to shrug this off but with hundreds of thousands of deaths and the largest economic disaster in living memory on the table, there’s a whole stack of countries seeing the WHO as a flightless carrier pigeon for Beijing’s memos. As an organisation, its reputation is ruined, and so too will Australia’s be if our leaders attempt overbearing infringements on civil liberty or rehearsed praise of the CCP.
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