Switzerland calls to support WHO 'more than ever'

Simonetta Sommaruga opening the World Health Assembly on Monday

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres regretted the lack of international unity and called countries to follow recommendations of the WHO

Against the background of fractious US-China rivalries over Covid-19 and the role of Taiwan, Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga opened the World Health Assembly with a call to WHO member states to display unity, provide the organization with sustainable funding and avoid actions that «undermine» global collaboration.

Swiss support to the WHO The President gave its «full and total support» to the Health Organization «today more than ever» stressing that multilateralism and solidarity should be strengthened. «What they do not need is to be undermined.»

Lack of unity United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres regretted the lack of international unity and called countries to follow recommendations of the WHO. «We've heard a lot of expressions about solidarity, but we haven't seen very much unity in our response to Covid-19… Countries have implemented different strategies, sometimes contradictory and all of us are now paying the price for that… Consequently, the virus is spread across the world».

Swiss response Switzerland announced the set up of «a coalition of countries, each of which will represent a region of the world» to strengthen the International Health Regulations. Its purpose would help global health security «to overcome what divides and separates us in order to protect our people better».

WHO funding must change Switzerland said it was important to ensure the WHO had enough «financial room for manoeuvre» to provide more independent expertise in the long run. «Is it reasonable and right to demand so much from the (WHO) and yet to contribute to it in such a hit and miss manner,» asked the President Sommaruga reminding that 80% of its total contributions were voluntary.

Recovery plan Antonio Gutteres asked the G20 to look urgently at a recovery plan «which will cover at least 10% of the world's GDP». He also urged the World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions to strengthen their support. «We must give a massive increase in the resources available to support developing countries.» More generally he called for a coordinated large scale health response to assist the most vulnerable countries, strengthen and develop further their health systems.

Not economic vs health «This is not a choice between responding to the health consequences of the pandemic or responding to its economic and social consequences. We can't define things like that if we do not control the spread of the virus, the economy will never recover,» concluded Gutteres.