The World Health Organization (WHO), which has been at the forefront of the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, was preparing to launch one of its most complex assemblies since its inception.
On Monday, representatives of the UN’s 194 member states will gather for the 73rd Assembly devoted almost entirely to strengthen global coordination against the pandemic, reports Efe news.
The assembly will last two days and will be held in a virtual format due to restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.
The annual meeting comes at a time when WHO has attracted unprecedented global attention for its coordinating and advisory role during the pandemic which has infected a total of 4,713,620 people globally and killed 315,185 others.
But the organization has not escaped criticism nor controversy during its handling of the crisis, with the bulk of accusations of mismanagement coming from the US government, but also Australia and Germany.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has weathered much of the criticism and has been accused by US President Donald Trump of being biased towards Chinese information in the first weeks of the outbreak at the beginning of the year.
Ghebreyesus famously said that China had set “a new standard for outbreak control” and that the country’s actions had “bought the world time”.
This did not stop Trump from freezing US funding of WHO in April, which amounts to around 15 per cent of the organization’s entire budget.
Up until then, the US had traditionally been the organization’s main donor.
There will be another thorny issue on the agenda: whether to include Taiwan as an observer of the Assembly.
Taiwan became the first country in the world to deploy prevention measures against the coronavirus which resulted in only 440 cases and seven deaths, despite being just 180 km from China.
Diplomatic allies of the island, including Latin American countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay, have formally requested to invite Taiwan to the meeting.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also publicly requested for the island-state to be present.
Member states will vote on whether to invite Taiwan into the assembly at the beginning but a unanimous result is necessary and the many think it is unlikely the Chinese government will allow it.
Ever since pro-independence President Tsao Ing-wen was sworn into office in 2016, China has vetoed the country’s inclusion in the UN.