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WHO donors reach preliminary deal on budget overhaul

by Haruna Gimba

By Haruna Gimba with agency report

The World Health Organisation (WHO) members on Thursday agreed to gradually raise their mandatory fees starting from 2024.

Sources following the talks and a WHO advisor said the decision was a part of the funding review which was vital to the U.N. health agency’s future.

Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said reforming the 74-year-old agency’s funding model was a priority as he aimed to remodel it to respond to the risk of more pandemics.

He said currently, the body relied heavily on voluntary contributions from governments and private donors which were often earmarked for specific programmes, leaving it with insufficient flexibility.

“There’s a basic agreement and there is a timeline and conditions,” one of three sources following the closed-door talks told Reuters.

WHO did not immediately respond to an email request for comment although a special advisor to Tedros, Peter Singer, said on Twitter the agreement was “fantastic news that will save lives.”

Germany, whose national Bjorn Kummel chaired the talks, also confirmed the outcome on Twitter.

The agreement was in the form of a recommendation and still needs to be formally approved by governments at the World Health Assembly in May.

The compromise reached on Wednesday envisaged mandatory fees reaching 50 per cent of the budget by 2028-2029, or possibly 2030-31, the sources said.

The funding reforms had been discussed over the past year and a half and the compromise deal, which was contingent on certain conditions such as transparency measures, was watered down due to opposition from some member states.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C. said the WHO was facing headwinds on funding not just from the U.S. but from Russia, Brazil, and a range of others on the assessed contributions.’’

One of the sources following the talks said that U.S. support had been a “turning point” in the negotiations.

Washington, historically the main donor to the agency and now its number 2 contributors, this year, reversed plans under former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the body and had vowed more funding.

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