The COVID-19 pandemic, much like a major war, is a defining moment for the world — one that demands major reforms of international institutions. The World Health Organization, whose credibility has taken a severe beating of late, is a good place to start.
The WHO is the only institution that can provide global health leadership. But, at a time when such leadership is urgently needed, the body has failed miserably. Before belatedly declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, the WHO provided conflicting and confusing guidance. More damaging, it helped China, where the crisis originated, to cover its tracks.
It is now widely recognized that China’s political culture of secrecy helped to turn a local viral outbreak into the greatest global disaster of our time. Far from sounding the alarm when the new coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, the Chinese Communist Party concealed the outbreak, allowing it to spread far and wide. Months later, China continues to sow doubt about the pandemic’s origins and withhold potentially life-saving data.