Journal Title

Virginia Journal of Social Policy and Law

Volume

28

Issue

1

First Page

174

Document Type

Article

Publication Information

2021

Abstract

Why did the World Health Organization (WHO) not act in a timely fashion to declare the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)? If it had done so, could the United States have heeded the warning and controlled the spread of the virus? Is the WHO's delay a factual cause of the calamities that the United States has suffered? This article addresses these questions. Part I examines the development of the WHO and its governance mechanism, major powers and limits, and past achievements and failures. It also explores how the WHO responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and what could have been done—but was not done—in the early stages. Part II analyzes why the United States failed to effectively respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Part III concludes that the WHO did not, and in the future will not, have the power and courage to make a prompt PHEIC declaration because of institutional constraints. However; the WHO's delay in acting was not a factual cause of the harm suffered in the United States because the Trump Administration would not have acted differently even if the WHO issued the PHEIC warning swiftly.

Recommended Citation

Chenglin Liu, The World Health Organization: A Weak Defender against Pandemics, 28 Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 174 (2021).

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