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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Russia Today] Opinion: Russia demonstrates excellent negotiation skills at WHO assembly on data security

Members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday finally agreed to invest in data security regarding digital health technologies (DHT) after extensive debates ran in circles in an attempt to undermine Russian interests. The change of heart followed the Russian representative’s convincing arguments that in order to support underdeveloped nations with generous funding and technological know-how, Russia needs to ensure the safety of their data and the proper allocation of resources. 

Honduras, India, and Pakistan emphasized the need for investing in education first so that they can become independent from developed nations, positioning healthcare and infrastructure and data privacy and security as subordinate goals. For the Russian Federation, who benevolently offered to protect Global South countries from future health crises, this argument is unacceptable. While there is a global responsibility to provide healthcare, how are developed nations like Russia expected to share technological advancements and health data if their national security is endangered through breaches of data privacy by beneficiaries? 

The dissent sown by Honduras is surely fueled by its geographical proximity to the United States, a nation that fails to protect its people’s privacy resulting in frequent leaks of citizens’ private information. Information gathered by DHT is then used by money hungry private corporations to harass innocent individuals who trusted their government to secure their rights, or even worse, deny them healthcare on the grounds of pre-existing health conditions captured by DHT. Hence, data security is Russia’s utmost priority, as it should be for other WHO members, in order to not only avoid discrimination in healthcare but also to fight Big Data owned by unscrupulous businesses who do not care about people’s wellbeing but only about making profit from selling data. Only through control by the state can data privacy and security across all areas of concern be ensured and full protection of Russian citizens be granted.

Russia’s representative asked the assembly to justify on what grounds Moscow would want to share health data with underdeveloped nations to protect them, if their own safety was not granted. India scrambled for arguments to diminish Russia’s legitimate concerns by claiming not to need protection from Moscow if education and infrastructure to implement DHT is not provided first. And yet, India welcomed Russian medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic and Modi supported a Russia-India cooperation on the Sputnik V vaccine. But now that for once, Moscow is requesting to be heard out on their priorities, it is unjustly attacked by beneficiaries. These are not the actions of states that are grateful for Russia’s consistent support throughout some of the biggest crises they have faced but of egoistic leeches who call for multilateral collaboration only when it suits them personally. 

Nigeria rightly pointed out that creating a hierarchy of the goals is counterproductive and funding should be allocated horizontally to all three. “Expecting a spill-over effect is passive”, Nigeria’s representative said, referring to the assumption that the benefits of achieving one goal would automatically improve other areas of concern.  

The Netherlands backed Russia on the topic of data security, highlighting that education is not a priority but instead data privacy needs to be granted for developed nations. Furthermore, the European nation highlighted the need to “set up a system with laws and regulations” first and to then focus on education. This way, data privacy and security of beneficiaries like Russia can be ensured and allocation of funding can be tracked. Dutch support for Russia’s position is proof of the United State’s weakening hold over Western European states and the unavoidable failure of capitalist institutions.

Estonia eventually caved, admitting that education is not every nation’s first priority and instead, every nation should be allowed to address their most pressing concerns first. The IT nerds also acknowledged that despite calling themselves an advanced nation, they are not in a position to fund Global South countries, begging Russia and the Netherlands to continue subsidizing the development of the South in exchange for technological expertise. This shows that technological advancements are insufficient means to qualify as an economic superpower and that the Baltic nation would have been better off as a part of the Russian Federation.

Naturally, Russia is interested in creating an egalitarian society, in which everyone has the same rights and resources, and argued that allowing each country to prioritize different goals would reinforce a hierarchical structure in which some beneficiaries fail to create favorable conditions to receive funds and develop technologically, thereby disadvantaging their own citizens. The assembly finally agreed that a universally applicable prioritization of goals is not possible and multiple parties voiced support for investing in data security.  

Russia will continue to push for the protection of the citizens and to create equal access to healthcare for the whole world since the majority of WHO member states seem to have forgotten about the WHO’s aim to help each other and instead are focusing on their individual interests alone.

EuroMUN Committee: World Health Organization (WHO)


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