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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Al Jazeera] Opinion: Developing countries in a struggle to protect their People as developed nations’ veto proposal threatens to hamper the future of international collaboration

Earlier this morning, on Friday May 11th, reporters from Reuters broke the news that the minority of developed nations in the WHO were working on a proposal for their draft resolution on digital health technology that would grant them ultimate veto power in the allocation of funds for developing countries. 

This motion naturally elicits doubts on the future of the institution’s democratic legitimacy, and most of all endangers the fair distribution of funds that the majority of state parties rely on for their nations’ well being. In light of recent issues with unanimity in the EU, where the interests of one member state can jeopardize the will of the Union as a whole, the possibility of such a fallacious structure burdening the allocation of aid for people in crisis looms over the UN body. 

Al Jazeera tested the temperatures during today’s second committee session, in the wake of the news release. The delegations requested an informal caucus to debrief among themselves before committee-wide deliberations resumed. The room split up into two very distinct fronts, and the developing nations kept their heads buried in their computers and notebooks all throughout. 

Sparing a moment for the sake of the public debate, the delegation of Estonia, a de facto leader of the developing nations, volunteered to shed some light into their assessment of the veto-debacle. 

“The developed nations want to dismantle an already existing structure [within the WHO],” they shared, lamenting a lack of concrete proposals and reality on behalf of the opposing front. “We want to work within the system that we’re in”. 

Estonia further elaborated on this so-called structure, for us laymen, specifying that the foundation of the institution has been equitable contributions, based on GDP, and any additional funds are on a voluntary basis, where the contributing nations retain full discretion. 

Joining in on the interview, two other delegations flanking Estonia also gave the reporters their version of the situation. 

Overall, the frustration appears to stem from the other side’s lack of communication (allegedly, they never submitted their working paper), and their concentration on “outlandish” proposals and preoccupations with preserving their national sovereignty. The developing countries agreed on what they perceive to be a lack of merit to these claims. 

Another contentious issue mentioned was the failure to establish a channel of communication with China, which Estonia sees as a potential bridge. As delegates worked on their proposals, the aforementioned delegate resorted to outwardly requesting the representative of Beijing’s attention, to which the latter responded that they were occupied with their committee work. 

Upon questioning, China’s delegation, who switched sides early on, disclosed the nation’s resentment towards the developing countries’ reliance on the help of the People’s Republic, which they feel has been taken for granted. They maintained that the only collaboration for them would be between the two broader fronts. 

When the moment to formally discuss proposals arrived, Japan and the Netherlands, the opposing figures to Estonia on behalf of the developed countries, finally delivered the much-requested clarity on their points. This morning’s elephant in the room, which the proposing nations redubbed “collaborative final vote”, was expanded upon. Reportedly, 25% of funds would be allocated to education, another analogous share to data security, and the remainder would be graciously distributed based on any countries’ needs, according to their terms. 

The fact remains that the funding state parties will still have final say, as rebutted by the developing countries.  

When confronted by reporters with the preoccupation that such proposals hinder collaboration between states, the Japanese delegation calmly asserted the opposite. They firmly believe that the proposed distribution of monetary aid operates on a common ground between the two fronts, who agree on the relevance of both education and data privacy. They acknowledged that the WHO’s current structure is based on equitable contributions, but they nonetheless desire a stronger voice. 

Pakistan and Nigeria acted as more neutral mediators between the two sides, although sources reported that the latter was more leaning towards Japan and the Netherlands’ front. A maverick player has also been Saudi Arabia, waving the potentiality of co-signing with the collaborative final vote resolution in exchange for veto privileges of its own. 

As the clock reached zero and everyone arose from their seats, eager to refuel in the cafeteria, the representative of China delivered an exclusive outlook on the deliberations to come. “There is definitely more consensus”, she heartened. The confidence with which she spoke was indicative of the prevailing sentiment among the first world countries that collaboration won’t be difficult to attain. 

Sources from Reuters have confirmed that, as of writing, the nations are still conflicting on the “collaborative final vote”, as the original issue of digital health technology slowly disappears in the rearview mirror. Upon further inquiry, a delegation has disclosed that Estonia’s front is grappling with a lack of signatures needed for their resolution, an issue that will only deepen if Saudi Arabia or Nigeria follows China’s suit and switches sides. 

As an onlooker, it is clear that the developed nation’s confidence is tainted with a dash of ingenuity, and nonchalance, in the face of a majority of nations in need who are attempting to diplomatically express their concerns for the future of their countries. The focus on retaining national sovereignty feels like an ego struggle next to the health and educational needs of the developing populations.

Overall, it’s difficult to overlook today’s worrying example of the economic divide that inhibits international unions such as the WHO’s, where privilege is tunneling the vision of the more developed nations, to the detriment of the urgent needs of the global south.

EuroMUN Committee: World Health Organization (WHO)


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