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25.04.2020 Business & Finance

Understanding BRICS, WHO And COVID-19

By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Understanding BRICS, WHO And COVID-19
LISTEN APR 25, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO), establish to tackle global health problems, is mobilizing for additional funds to overcome coronavirus which it declared pandemic late January 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has, undoubtedly, changed the ways of life, impacted the capacities of health infrastructure and has disrupted the economic supply value chain with an attendant negative impact on global economies. As the world grapples with the challenges of the coronavirus, there is a need for solidarity, unity of purpose and better coordination to overcome this common enemy.

In order to find long-term and sustainable solutions to the pandemic, WHO has been collaborating with the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and regional organizations such as African Union, G20 and BRICS. Besides, there is a strong cooperation in the format of Russia-India-China (RIC). It is also making ways through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms.

Foreign countries are contributors to the functioning of World Health Organization. For example, U.S. is the single largest funder of the organization, providing more than $400 million each year – about 15% of its total budget. WHO has come under criticisms. Many countries especially the United States and Britain, believe that WHO's reluctance to confront China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak is the reason it has now become a pandemic.

As the world leaders pledged to accelerate work on tests, drugs and vaccines against COVID-19 and to share them around the globe, the United States stayed away from an initiative launched on April 24 by the World Health Organization.

According to Reuters report, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were among those who joined a video conference to launch what the WHO billed as a "landmark collaboration" to fight the pandemic. Leaders from Asia, the Middle East and the Americas also joined the videoconference, but several big countries did not participate, including China, India and Russia.

The aim is to speed development of safe and effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19, the lung disease caused be the novel coronavirus - and ensure equal access to treatments for both rich and poor. "We are facing a common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach," WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said as he opened the virtual meeting.

South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa is the chair of the African Union. Currently, Russia holds the rotating chair of BRICS. BRICS is also coordinating efforts of its members to help in finding solution to COVID-19. Russia, India and China are in very strong positions in the group or association. China and India have huge population. Despite its vast territory, Russia's population is slightly higher than Japan in the Pacific Ocean.

China, a leading global player and business footprint, said it would donate a further $30 million to the World Health Organization, which is seeking more than $1 billion to fund its battle against the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 people worldwide. "At this crucial moment, supporting WHO is supporting multilateralism and global solidarity," Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China's Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter.

The donation aimed to support the global fight against COVID-19, in particular strengthening health systems in developing countries, she said, adding that China had already donated $20 million to the WHO on March 11.

According to an executive decree posted to Kremlin's website, Russia will contribute $1 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the coronavirus. "Allocate budget funding of $1 million from the federal budget for one-time voluntary contribution to the World Health Organization for coronavirus infection fight measures implementation," the document reads.

The same decree earmarks about $804,795 to fund expenses of the Vector Institute and the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, "connected to production and shipment of tools for laboratory diagnosis of the novel coronavirus infection, and material and technical support to countries of Eastern Europe, Trans-Caucasus, Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America."

As stipulated by the guidelines, Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) regional association since January, 2020. BRICS has established as a multilateral structure, and as reliable association pushing for fair, democratic and multipolar world order.

Russia continues to expand strategic partnership of the organization, working on strengthening foreign policy coordination on various multilateral platforms. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads the foreign ministers of the BRICS association of countries. On April 28, this group plans to hold an extraordinary videoconference to exchange opinions on possible joint measures to oppose the coronavirus pandemic.

"At Russia's initiative, the foreign policy chiefs of the BRICS countries will hold an extraordinary conference in a video format under Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's chairmanship on April 28," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The foreign ministers will "focus on aspects of the influence of the crisis prompted by the outbreak of the coronavirus infection on international relations. The ministers will exchange opinions on possible joint measures the five countries could take to oppose Covid-19 and address the financial, trade-economic, and social consequences of the pandemic," the statement said.

"The parties will also consider relevant aspects of the development of a five-sided strategic partnership, including a calendar of events during Russia's presidency of the BRICS this year," it said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said during an online launch of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics' report on Russia's foreign policy, "Our organization keeps an eye on the fight against COVID-19. Russia considers various aspects of the issue during its chairmanship of BRICS. Health experts maintain contacts. We will also consider various political aspects of the situation within BRICS."

The Russian diplomat added that BRICS was an appropriate platform for such cooperation, "given the scientific capabilities of its members, particularly in the fields of healthcare and pharmaceutical industry." "Each of the countries is making its own contribution to these efforts. We will bring it all together during our chairmanship so that at the end of the year we can say that BRICS has made another step forward," Ryabkov emphasized.

On April 23, TASS report said that BRICS member states could increase their funding of the World Health Organization and expand medical cooperation with other states due to the US decision to withdraw its contributions to the organization.

"A few days ago, the US announced that it would withdraw or suspend funding of the World Health Organization. BRICS states could make a statement, in which they would announce their increased contributions to this organization that plays a central role in the global anti-pandemic governance," according to Dmitry Suslov, deputy head of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics National Research University. "BRICS states could announce further coordination in their approaches to aiding other states, states with weaker healthcare systems than those of BRICS states."

The expert stressed that the spread of the disease in less developed countries would threaten the security of BRICS member states. Suslov, however, noted that BRICS is interested in strengthening the healthcare system in such states.

Cui Zheng, deputy head of the Research Center for the Economies and Politics of Transitional Countries at Liaoning University, expressed a similar opinion. He noted that China actively helps their partners within BRICS to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"The most important thing for us is international cooperation within BRICS. The member states have clearly stated their solidarity, uniting in the fight against the coronavirus," the expert stated. "Not only do China and Russia actively help each other, they are supplying materials needed to combat the coronavirus to other states."

While coronavirus is currently the urgent task, reiterating here that, besides all, the BRICS is interested in increasing financial and economic cooperation among the participating countries, effective industrial interaction and practical cooperation in developing and implementing new joint energy, telecommunications and high-tech projects.

The coronavirus disease appeared first in 2019 in Wuhan city in China. The disease was, first identified in Wuhan and Hubei, both in China early December 2019. The original cause still unknown, it remains a puzzle and an enigma for the world scientific community. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have spread around the world.

According to the latest statistics, over 2,700,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 191,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 750,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world's geographical area and are home to 3.6 billion people, about 42% of the world's population and a combined nominal GDP of $16.6 trillion. *By Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and the BRICS.

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