The UK will not follow Donald Trump by freezing hundreds of millions of pounds in funding for the World Health Organisation, Downing Street insisted today.
The PM’s spokesman said the government believes the WHO has an ‘important role to play’ in the global response to coronavirus.
The US president launched an extraordinary attack on the ‘China-centric’ UN agency overnight, putting $500million in funding on hold while an investigation is conducted into its handling of the pandemic.
Mr Trump singled out what he called the WHO’s ‘dangerous and costly decision’ to argue against international travel bans to combat the pandemic.
London’s divergence from Washington comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab prepares to come face-to-face, via webcam, with the US president.
He will represent the UK at a virtual G7 conference chaired by Mr Trump tomorrow afternoon, as Boris Johnson continues his recovery from coronavirus.
The US move has sparked a backlash from Beijing, as well as health experts who insist it is not the right time to be stopping the cashflow.
Other major donors including the EU and Australia have made clear they will continue with funding.
The PM’s spokesman said this afternoon that the UK’s contribution – usually around £200million a year – would not be withheld.
‘Our position is that the UK has no plans to stop funding the WHO, which has an important role to play in leading the global health response,’ the spokesman said.
‘Coronavirus is a global challenge and it’s essential that countries work together to tackle this shared threat.’
Asked if the Government was disappointed by Donald Trump’s move, the spokesman said: ‘I can only set out the UK’s position and that is we have no plans to stop funding the WHO.’
The spokesman sidestepped a question over whether the UK will step in to plug the funding gap left by US.
‘We are a key donor already, contributing £75million to help it lead international efforts to stop the spread of the virus.’
The spokesman also confirmed Mr Raab will call for ‘global collaboration’ when he dials into the meeting tomorrow.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters this morning ‘The G7 is committed to doing whatever it takes to tackle this pandemic.
‘The Foreign Secretary will underline the need for global collaboration to tackle this crisis.
‘This includes increasing the speed and scale of production of vaccines, treatments and tests internationally.
‘He will also encourage co-ordination on the economic response to the virus and G7 to support vulnerable countries.’
The WHO’s funding comes from ‘assessed’ contributions – required to be a member – and ‘voluntary’ contributions.
The UK’s total in 2018 came to around $220million – although it has injected more this year to combat coronavirus.
The US is the largest single contributor to the WHO, paying in some $893million between 2018 and 2019 which made up around 15 per cent of the agency’s total budget during that period.
So far in 2020 the US has agreed to pay some $57million in assessed contributions to the WHO – the largest single payment by a country.
The Trump administration has been fighting to reduce spending on foreign aid budgets including contributions to the WHO for at least three years, Foreign Policy reported, but had been repeatedly slapped down by Congress.
Announcing the move to suspend funding Tuesday, Trump suggested the WHO had been doing the bidding of China, where the coronavirus outbreak began before spreading to the United States.
Trump pointed to the funding disparities between the two countries, which both fund the WHO.
The president said while American taxpayers pay around $400 to $500 million annually to the WHO, China pays a 10th of that, at around $40 million a year.