After having been increasingly critical of the World Health Organization as the coronavirus global health crisis has continued, President Trump said on April 14 that he would halt funding to the organization. This move by Trump did not come unexpectedly.
As the initially slow U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic had come under increasing scrutiny, President Trump had denied any responsibility for the scale of the crisis and he shifted blame to the WHO, accusing the organization “of calling it wrong” of being “China-centric” and that “they should have called it months earlier”. That’s despite Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, warning on January 29 that the virus could be a risk for millions of Americans and cost trillions of dollars while the WHO labeled it a public health emergency the next day.
Trump referred to U.S. financial contributions to the organization at a press conference last week saying that “we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO”. He then stated that “we’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see”. The president was subsequently asked if withholding money from the WHO in the middle of a pandemic was the right decision and he then seemed to backtrack, saying “no maybe not” before adding “I’m not saying I’m going to do it but we’re going to look at it.”
Given the current situation, which countries actually do contribute the most financially to the WHO? There are two kinds of payments – assessed contributions and voluntary supplementary assessed contributions. The first one is a membership fee where the total amount paid is calculated relative to wealth and population. The second is an extra voluntary financial contribution members are encouraged to make.
The Trump administration actually slashed WHO funding in its most recent budget proposal in February to an assessed contribution of $115.8 million. Despite the cut, that figure is still the highest contribution by far with China paying in the second highest sum with $57.4 million. Japan is in third place with $41.0 million. The total sum of assessed contributions due to be paid by all member states this year stood at approximately $500 million on January 01, of which approximately $170 million had been paid by March 31.
Correction: A previous version of this chart only referenced the amounts payable in U.S. dollars. Per WHO resolution 66.16, where the total annual assessed contribution for a member is $200,000 or greater, that member’s contribution is assessed half in U.S. dollars and half in Swiss francs.