New Delhi: India said Monday that it welcomed “efforts” to make international institutions more reflective of “21st-century realities”. Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) Monday, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan added that “India will always stand with such efforts to foster meaningful and broad-based change”.
His statement at the annual WHA meeting came on the same day India became one of over 120 countries to back an international resolution seeking a probe into the origins of the coronavirus. The resolution was adopted by the WHA Monday, with China supporting an international review too.
“In congratulating all those who are striving to save humanity, we welcome efforts to make all international institutions more reflective of 21st-century realities,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
The WHA is the main decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The meeting Monday was WHA’s first virtual conference.
India will soon assume the chairmanship of the WHO’s executive board, a decision on which will be taken at a meeting of the multilateral body on 22 May.
The health minister added that India took all the “necessary steps well in time”, saying the country is “leaving no stones unturned to contain the deadly virus from spreading”.
China supports review
The ongoing WHA meeting assumes importance as it is being held amid diplomatic and geopolitical tensions over the pandemic and its fallout.
The first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. With the pandemic now having killed thousands worldwide and forced the world into a lockdown that has crushed the economy, Beijing and the WHO have come under considerable criticism for allegedly playing Covid-19 down in its initial days.
The WHA resolution, sponsored by the European Union and Australia, seeks an investigation into the WHO’s handling of the pandemic amid allegations, including from the US, that it played down the gravity of Covid-19 at China’s behest. The resolution, however, doesn’t mention China.
Meanwhile, the WHO independent advisory committee looking into Covid-19 presented its first report at the meeting.
Pointing to the 11-page report, which raises questions about the spread of the pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN agency will initiate an independent evaluation into its response to Covid-19 between January and April, at the “earliest appropriate moment”.
“In that spirit, we welcome the proposed resolution before this assembly that calls for a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation…” he said.
“Such an evaluation must encompass the entirety of the response by all actors in good faith. So I will initiative an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learnt and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said he supported the proposal that the WHO lead an international review in an “objective and impartial manner”, but after the pandemic begins to stabilise.
Stressing that the “virus has no borders”, Xi said “all along we have acted with openness, transparency and responsibility.”