Episode Four: Video Contest Interview Special

Beyond Nations held its first international video contest and invited contributions on the topic ‘How can India and Pakistan achieve peace between their countries without violence’. In this podcast, we interview our two contestants, Sitwat Fatima from Karachi, Pakistan and Jose Danilo D. Borce II from the Philippines and learn about their motivations for entering the contest and hopes for peace between nations.

Video One by Sitwat Fatima: here
Video Two by Jose Danilo D. Borce II: here


Episode Three: Rescuing Migrants Across the Mediterranean, the World’s Deadliest Frontier

Europe’s Mediterranean fronter is the world’s deadliest crossing, with thousands of individuals and families drowning at sea to reach Europe. Independent search and rescue operations, organised by grass roots movements across Europe, have mobilised to protect migrants. In this episode, we speak to Lea Main-Klingst, one of the organisers of SOS Mediteranee, a patrol ship that has saved thousands of lives.

Video Competition : $150 to be Won

We are pleased to announce the launch of our first video competition, with prize money of $150 (USD) to win. The competition is open to people all around the world and simply requires you to produce a maximum 2 minutes 20 seconds video to answer the following question:

How can the people of India and Pakistan acheive peace between their countries without violence?

The competition dates are:
  • Open: Monday 1st June 2020
  • Deadline for Submission: midnight (GMT) on Sunday 12th July 2020.
  • Voting Period: Tuesday 14th July 2020 – midnight (GMT) on Tuesday 4th August 2020
  • Announcement of Winner:  Wednesday 5th July 2020.

Prize money of $100 will be awarded to the winner of the ‘People’s Vote’, with an additional $50 awarded to the ‘Editor’s Vote’. Full details for the competition are set out below:


Video Guidelines

Topic: The topic for your video must be ‘How can the people of India and Pakistan acheive peace between their countries without violence?’
Style and presentation: The style and presentation of your video is entirely your choice. You can use a range of images, videos, audio, paintings or drawings or even just a video of yourself, talking to your camera. As long as you comply with the terms and conditions, you can be as creative as you like!
Content: Your video must concern the topic of how the people of India and Pakistan can acheive peace between their countries, without violence. The message you would like to deliver can focus on whatever aspect you like. For example, you may choose to focus on a politics, society, economics, arts, technology, law, ethics,  humanity or whatever you believe would be a path towards peace between the two countries.
Length: Your video must a maximum of 2 minutes 20 seconds in length, there is no minimum length.
Language: We reccommend presenting your video in the English language for maximum viewership. However, you may use whichever language you prefer, but if it is not English then you must include English sub-titles on your video.

Format: The filesize of your video must be no more than 300mb and must be a filetype that is valid to be displayed on YouTube. For full details on what size, dimensions and filetype are suited to YouTube, please consult the Youtube help at https://support.google.com/youtube

How to Enter:

You must create your video and send it to us. To send, you must create a link to your file with online cloud storage (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive etc.) We reccommend that you use Google Drive, which you can sign up for free at https://www.google.com/drive/. Once you have created your account, simply upload your video to your online storage and get a shareable link for the file which can then be emailed to us (make sure that your file is set so that it can be downloaded by anyone with the link).

Submit video link  to us by email to admin@beyond-nations.com with the following information
Link to video file: 
Email Address:
I [your name] confirm that I have created the attached video and have accepted the Beyond Nations terms and conditions for entry to the video competition.

How the Winner is decided:

There are two awards to be won:
People’s Vote: All accepted video entries will be uploaded simultaneously on Tuesday 14th July 2020 on the Beyond Nations Youtube Video Channel. Between this date and midnight on Tuesday 4th August 2020 the voting will take place. A person can vote for your video by ‘Liking’ (clicking the ‘thumbs up’ icon) on your video on YouTube. The video with the most amount of Likes by midnight (GMT) on Tuesday 4th August 2020 will be declared the winner of the People’s Vote. The prize money in this category is $100 (USD)

Editor’s Vote: The Beyond Nations Editor’s will vote on the video they determine to the best submission. Their vote will be based on quality of style & presentation, delivery of message, originality (etc. we probably need to give some idea of what our criteria will be).

Terms and Conditions: 

The following terms and conditions apply to the Beyond Nations Video Competition. By entering the competition, you must agree to the following:

  • The video must not contain or promote violence, swearing, nudity or hatred or any of king including racism, sexism, relgious bigotory or any other form of prejudice.
  • Your video must be created by yourself and not contain anyone else’s protected copyrighted material that you are not legally permitted to use. You will be held by Beyond Nations to be personally liable for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of copyright theft
  • You must not be in breach of any domestic or international laws in the creation of your video.
  • You agree to give permission to Beyond Nations to upload your video on the Beyond Nations Channel with the Beyond Nations logo added to your video
  • Confirm that you issue a royalty-free and unlimited license to Beyond Nations to share, edit and distribute your video both online and offline
  • You agree to not use any ‘fake’ or ‘paid for’ ‘Likes’ for promotion of your uploaded video in order to receive votes.

Beyond Nations Brief  – No. 1: Religious Minorities and their Rights in Pakistan

Beyond Nations Brief  – No. 1

Religious Minorities and their Rights in Pakistan


Dr Farooq Yousaf

PhD Politics / Co-Editor Beyond Nations


Download PDF here: Religious Minorities and their Rights in Pakistan – BN Brief 1


May 2, 2020


Pakistan, as an “Islamic Republic”, has an overwhelming Muslim majority. Minorities in Pakistan make up a very small proportion of the overall population. Hence, about 96% of the people practice Islam, whereas around 4% practice other religions, with Hinduism and Christianity being the prominent minority religions, in Pakistan[i]. These figures are self-reflective of the fact that minorities naturally have a limited say in social and state affairs. Moreover, the constitution of Pakistan also prohibits any minority member from holding the highest state positions of President and Prime Minister[ii]. In 2012, Freedom House termed Pakistan as partially free in terms of religious independence, whereas Pakistan ranked the third-worst state, according to Foreign Policy magazine, in terms of a group grievance in 2014. The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2020 annual report, also recommended that Pakistan should remain in the list of countries of particular concern (CPC) in terms of religious freedom. Other countries recommended for CPC in the report included Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

Minorities in Pakistan also faced threats of persecution, forced conversions along with religious violence. In recent years, especially since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan, right-wing militant groups have targeted members of the minority communities; including Shias, Hazaras, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadiyya and the Ismaili community. This situation does not only stem from the narrative built by radical Islamic groups but is also compounded by the state constitution that is responsible for structural prejudice against the minority groups.

In terms of religious freedom and practice, Pakistan’s history concerning religious minorities is somewhat complex. Although Pakistan was established on the principle of “secularism” by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah promising freedom of religion to everyone, the revisions and constitutional changes, motivated by right-wing religious groups, in the 1970s and 1980s marginalised the minorities in the country[iii]. This is where two schools of thought exist in Pakistan; the liberal and the conservative. The liberal school believes that Pakistan was founded on identity agonistic principles with equal citizenship for all, whereas the conservative narrative says that the country was founded only to protect and practice Islam[iv].

The first blow to Jinnah’s version of secular Pakistan came when in 1962 the Pakistan Advisory Council for Islamic Ideology added a repugnancy clause to the constitution stating that all the laws should be brought in conformity with the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Pakistan’s official name did not include the Islamic Republic until the 1956 constitution was formed, and Islam was not officially designated a state religion until it was stated in the constitution of 1973[v]. The constitution of Pakistan, on the other hand, also tried to ensure religious freedom from everyone, as per Jinnah’s vision.

Article 20 of the Pakistani constitution states that every Pakistani citizen must have the liberty to practice their religion and establish religious institutions. Yet, on the other hand, the same constitution forbids any minority citizen from holding the offices of President and Prime Minister in the country. Furthermore, the constitution explicitly states that all laws shall be formed in light of Islamic principles. It was General Zia, who, during his authoritarian regime, followed policies of Islamisation to enter into alliances with religious parties and groups, and thus introduced strict penalties and punishments for blasphemy offences through articles 295-298 of the Pakistan Penal Code. According to the section 295 of Pakistan Penal Code, any act of defiling or damaging a place of worship, or insulting Islam and the Prophets, comes under blasphemy and is punishable by a fine or a death sentence.

Article 295 A B and C encapsulate the clauses that are meant to protect Islam. The anti-blasphemy law has been misused in several cases. In one such case, a Christian Pakistani woman named Aasia Bibi was sentenced to death after being convicted of committing blasphemy. Salman Taseer, the then governor of Punjab province, was shot dead by his bodyguard on January 11, 2011, for supporting Aasia and criticising how the blasphemy law was practised in the country. Committing blasphemy is considered a serious offence in Pakistan, especially when it is allegedly committed by the non-Muslim community. In 2010, a whole block of the Christian community, comprising of 50 houses, was set on fire killing 7 and injuring 18, when the victims were accused of blasphemy.

Pakistan’s post-2011 wave of Talibanization has presented a major threat to minorities in the country. Although most of the Pakistanis have become victims to terror-related attacks, the religious minorities, especially Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, and Hazaras have come under religion-related attacks from fundamentalist groups[vi].  Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ), a banned militant outfit, is mostly responsible for attacks on Shias at large whereas Jundullah has been involved in attacks on Hazara Shias, especially in the Balochistan province.

The Movement for Solidarity and Peace, in its report in 2014, argues that “forced conversions” were one of the three major grievances that the minority community faced in Pakistan[vii]. The dilemma of forced conversions is prominent in the Sindh province of Pakistan, which constitutes the majority of the Hindu population living in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, 20-25 incidents of kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindus take place per month on an average in the province. The Christians, on the other hand, face forced conversions and marriages in Punjab province. In many cases, the girls forced to convert and marry are minors and thus are unable to provide consent and subject to physical and psychological abuse. Local police and administration are also accused of being complicit in many of these forced conversions. In the majority of these cases, the police, under the influence of local elites, fail to register the FIR (first information report) against the perpetrator and thus create the first and major hurdle for the victims and their families.

The cases and the current situation discussed above highlight Pakistan’s failure in protecting its minority citizens. This failure put the country’s already deteriorating international image at stake. Furthermore, minority groups in Pakistan have a legitimate concern towards the discriminatory laws against them in the constitution. These concerns have led to a mass exodus of Ahmadis, Hazaras and Hindus from Pakistan. In addition to that, radical individuals and groups have also been able to successfully eliminate voices of reason, such as former Governor Salman Taseer and former minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

On the back of successful counter-terrorism operations in the former-FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Pakistan is now standing at an important juncture of its history. If the country fails in addressing the grievances of its marginalised minority groups, it would further marginalise the country’s minority groups. The government needs to ensure that Article 20 of the constitution is implemented in its true spirit and the minorities are provided not only with security but also full rights to practice their religion. Also, the country needs to formulate strict laws that punish those involved in forced conversions of minority groups. Only then can Pakistan succeed in establishing a safe space for minorities to practice their religion without the fear of persecution.


[i] Agency, C. I. (2015, May 1). Pakistan. In the world factbook. Retrieved from Central Intelligence Agency: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ geos/pk.html

[ii] Khan, M. (2014). Constitutional Comparison and Analysis of Discrimination against Religious Minorities in Pakistan and India. Lums Law Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, 19-38.

[iii] Refugees, U. N. (2012, May 14). UNHCR eligibility guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of members of religious minorities from Pakistan. Retrieved from Ref World: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4fb0ec662.pdf

[iv] Raina, A. K. (2014). Minorities and representation in a plural society: the case of the Christians of Pakistan. South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies, Volume 37, Issue 4, 684-699.

[v] Titus, P. (2015, April). A toll on the soul: costs of persecution among Pakistan’s Christians. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 72-77.

[vi] Ispahani, F. (2013, July 31). Cleansing Pakistan of minorities. Retrieved from Hudson Institute:      http://www.hudson.org/research/9781-cleansing-pakistan-of-minorities

[vii] Movement for Solidarity and Peace. (2014). Forced Marriages & Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan. Movement for Solidarity and Peace.





Letter: No Keir Starmer, Kashmir is not a Bilateral Issue between India and Pakistan

Letter: No Keir Starmer, Kashmir in nor a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan

Dear Sir Keir Starmer,

I record this message to express my grief upon hearing your statement yesterday, that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

You did not say the ‘people’ of Kashmir, you said Kashmir, because like for so many others, the people do not seem relevant.

In the same statement, you said that Labour is an internationalist party, and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere. I ask you then, why do you not stand for the people of Kashmir?

When the parents of children that were abducted and never seen again, ask for their return, do you not hear their request?

When thousands of students, lawyers, political activists and political thinkers, were detained without charge and dispersed in prisons throughout India, does their liberty not matter?

When countless Kashmiris have returned home, mutilated by one of the one million different soldiers of the Indian army, whose presence has become permanent feature of life in Kashmir, does their right to freedom from torture not count?

And when Kashmiris, who have endured these conditions for 72 years seek freedom, does the right to self-determination, a sacred and inviolable right of public international law, not apply to them?

All of these violations are evidenced and documented by human rights organisations around the world, indeed by your own political party.

It is why the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that the people of Indian-administered Kashmir continue to be deprived of numerous basic freedoms

It is why UN experts, such as the Special Rapporteur on the protection of the freedom of opinion, has called upon the Government of India to end the months long blockade on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests

It is why Amnesty International has highlighted the systematic abuse of the rule of law

It is why Human Rights Watch has lamented the Indian government’s attempt to justify these fundamental rights violations on the grounds of national security”.

It is why your own party condemned the “enforced disappearance of civilians, the state-endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces, and the prevalence of human rights violations throughout the whole region,”

And it is why your immediate predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn took a clear stand on human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir while leading the labour party, and said in August 2019 that the situation in Kashmir is deeply disturbing and called for the rights of Kashmiris to be respected for UN resolutions to be implemented.

I ask you then, when you say that you stand for the defence of international human rights, why, immediately after a meeting with the Labour Friends of India, you reposition the Labour party and state that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan?

Today, your comments have reverberated with applause throughout sections of the India media and government, who have long sought protection from international scrutiny over the rights of Kashmiris.

But, for the people of Kashmir, and their loved ones around the world, you have decided that they are less than human, and now stand as a friend of their oppression.

Beyond Nations.

Lessons on Peace and Conflict Resolution from Pakistan’s “Tribal” Areas


Beyond Nation, in its first forum, invited Mr Imtiaz Gul and Dr Farooq Yousaf to discuss the situation of peace and conflict in Pakistan’s Pashtun ‘tribal’ region. The region, formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) until its merger with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in May 2018, was governed under the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), which was a law of exception keeping the ‘tribes’ in isolation from mainstream Pakistan.

The region was also known for training of the so-called “Mujahideen” between 1979 and 1989 against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. However, soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the region became a flashpoint of domestic and transnational militancy and terrorism. However, on the back of multiple Pakistani military operations and the region’s merger and mainstreaming, many feel hopeful that the region will have equal access to healthcare, justice and education. Mr Gul and Dr Yousaf, in that regard, discuss the past, present and future of the region, along with highlighting the major lessons that can be learnt in terms of peace and conflict resolution.

Moderator: Ousman Noor

Participants: Mr Imtiaz Gul, Dr Farooq Yousaf

Participant Profiles

Mr Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), that he founded in December 2007, with the support of Germany’s Heinrich Boell Stiftung in Islamabad, Pakistan. He is also the Editor in Chief of Matrix Mag, a monthly news magazine in Pakistan. He is author of several international books and has been contributing to international and National (Pakistani) print media.

Dr Farooq Yousaf, who is co-Editor of Beyond-Nations and currently based in Newcastle, Australia, holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle. His research focuses on Postcolonialism, Pakistan, and South Asia’s colonial heritage. In addition to that, he focuses on Indigenous Conflict Resolution and is currently writing a book on the topic. He has published papers in various international journals and often contributes to national and international news sources.

Frontex: How the EU is Building an Army Against Migrants

The European Union is building an army against migrants. Frontex, is set to receive €11 billion in funding to have 10,000 uniformed border officers to prevent migrants arriving in Europe by 2027. The message is clear, Europe is becoming a fortress. Instead of a Europe for solidarity, Frontex represents a Europe for division.


The WHO is being used as a scapegoat: We must act now to protect it

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has come under brutal criticism concerning its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The amount of confirmed cases around the world has passed 1.5 million and the death roll approaches 100,000. The virus is rightly viewed as the worst public international health crisis for several generations, and nations have turned to the WHO for leadership. With the pressure mounting, and the WHO’s Director General under intense spotlight, are such criticisms valid or is the WHO being used as a scapegoat to divert blame from others?

The recent criticism is spearheaded by politicians and media in the USA. On 7th April, President Trump tweeted ‘The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric,’ Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News that the Chinese government had ‘used the WHO to mislead the world‘, and claimed that the WHO is either complicit or dangerously incompetent and Senator Rick Scott accusing the WHO of helping Communist China cover up a global pandemic.

The Washington Post and New York Times also published features scrutinising the WHO, also suggesting a lack of leadership and political bias towards China. Both features also point towards the WHOs lack of recognition of the sovereignty of Taiwan, an issue they suggest has seriously undermined its ability to deal with the crisis and tarnished its credibility as an organisation tasked with protecting the world.

President Trump now threatens to revoke funding to the WHO, which would leave a potential deficit of around $400 million, or around 20% of the annual budget. The move would have serious implications for the WHOs function in responding to the pandemic, and also castrate its power for years to come.

To understand whether these criticisms are valid, we first need to understand what the WHO is.  We know that it is an agency of the United Nations tasked with international public health, but what power does it have? Let’s summarise:

  • The WHO has an annual budget of around $2 billion, around 1/10th the annual endowment of the average Ivy League University in the USA. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alone has more than three times this budget.
  • The vast majority of the WHO’s income is made of voluntary, non-enforceable, contributions from member states and external organizations. The voluntary contributions create a situation where the organisation’s focus and priorities are determined by the donor.
  • With this budget, it is tasked with monitoring, coordinating and protecting international public health on issues ranging from smallpox, polio, ebola, malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, malnutrition, substance abuse and of course, the coronavirus.
  • The WHO’s membership includes 194 member states, it is accountable to all of them.
  • The WHO has no powers to impose any penalties or sanctions on any of the member states that do not cooperate with its coordination or protection functions. Its ability is reliant upon the discretion of the member state in which it operates.
  • The WHO has no power to impose policies on member states in respect of health governance. It may only provide advice and make recommendations, and it is for the government of each country to implement such advice.

Within this context, it is easy to see how fragile the organisation is, compared to the task it is set out to achieve. As stated by Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet Medical Journal, the WHO ‘has been drained of power and resources, its coordinating authority and capacity are weak. Its ability to direct an international response to a life-threatening epidemic is non-existent.’ Due to these budgetary limitations, and the lack of enforcement capability, it must rely on good-will, co-operation and diplomacy in order to achieve its objectives.

Let us now examining the claim that the WHO has been slow to act in response to the coronavirus. I wrote an article on 1st April 2020 detailing some of the actions that the WHO has taken so far.

In summary,

  • The WHO was first notified of the emergence of a new virus on 31st December 2019.
  • By 5th January it had published its first risk assessment.
  • By 10th January, prior to a single death, it published a toolkit for countries around the world to build capacity to cope with the potential spread of the virus.
  • By 12th January, prior to a single case outside of China, the WHO released the genetic sequence to be shared with health authorities, laboratories and researches around the world to develop diagnostic kits.
  • By 21st January 2020, the WHO had completed a field visit to Wuhan, China and released the test kit to help other countries to detect the virus and confirmed that the virus could spread from person-to-person
  • By 25th January 2020, the WHO released a free online course on the coronavirus to educate health workers around the world.
  • Throughout February 2020, the WHO was issuing guidance for health ministers around the world relating to planning, operations, testing and diagnostic arrangements, and policy advice on social distancing and development of health infrastructure.

The WHO had therefore made enormous effort, in a very short time frame, to enable governments around the world to act promptly to limit the spread of the virus and protect their populations.

Much of the criticism relating to the speed of the WHO’s response focusses on the alleged failure to confirm whether the virus was capable of person-to-person transmission. This criticism focuses on a statement made by the WHO on 12th January 2020 which stated:

According to the preliminary epidemiological investigation, most cases worked at or were handlers and frequent visitors to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The government reports that there is no clear evidence that the virus passes easily from person to person. WHO Statement, 12th January 2020

The allegation that the WHO stated that the virus could not be transmitted person-to-person is false. The statement was that the ‘preliminary epidemiological investigation’ and the governments reports made available to the WHO, there was ‘no clear evidence’ that the virus passes ‘easily’ from person-to-person, all of which was true from the WHO’s perspective at that time. The WHO made this statement noting that this was a new virus, that ‘not much was known’ by them at that time, and that more investigations would take place. By 12th January, the WHO had not even had the opportunity to conduct its own field visit to Wuhan, and had no means of independently verifying the extent of the virus’s transmissibility and therefore relied on the Chinese government’s reports. When they did, by 21st January 2020, the WHO was able to publish more detailed findings and confirmed that the virus was spreading from person-to-person. Again, the allegation that the WHO did not act quickly, is completely misleading.

Another allegation made against the WHO is that it is ‘China-centric’ and that its failure to dialogue with Taiwan has undermined its effectiveness and credibility. This criticism focusses on the language used by Director General Tedros Adhanom. On 28th January 2020, Tedros stated:

‘We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.’ WHO, China leaders discuss next steps, statement on 28th January 2020

This statement and others, in which Tedros has praised China’s ‘leadership’, is deployed as evidence of WHO’s political bias towards China, especially in light of subsequent revelations that Chinese officials had deliberately covered up the extent of the virus’s harm and transmissibility in December. In addition, the fact that China was among the countries that nominated Tedros to become Director-General of WHO is used to indicate his political bias towards China.

Here, it is crucial to reflect on the fragility, budgetary limitations, lack of enforcement capability and precariousness of the WHO as an organisation, as set out above. The WHO has no powers to penalise China, or enforce its programme on the country whatsoever. The Chinese government is notoriously secretive and defensive, and the WHO’s top priority was to gain access to conduct relevant medical research for the benefit of all 194 of its member states and stop the spread of the virus. At any point during this process, it was possible for China to have prevented access and denied responsibility for the virus. It was necessary therefore, for the WHO to exercise diligence in its diplomacy to achieve its objectives.


The WHO was established in 1948 to advocate for universal healthcare and monitor, coordinate and protect international public health.


Within this context, it is commendable that the WHO has achieved enormous positive outcomes for countries all around the world. Apart from ensuring the genetic sequence and test kits were available worldwide, prior to the virus spreading beyond China. The WHO has sent expert medical teams and delegations to assist in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Italy. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the WHO has shipped more than 900 000 surgical masks, 62 000 N95 masks, 1 million gloves, 115 000 gowns, 17 000 goggles and 34 000 face shields to 133 countries and shipped COVID-19 testing kits to 126 countries. It prepared free training material used by tens of thousands of healthcare workers worldwide. It gathered $675 million to limit transmission and provide early care, to fund research and innovation in developing a vaccine, and a further $113 million from private donors through a global solidarity fund to help the world’s least developed countries, an initiative never previously undertaken by the WHO. All of this, at a time when many of the world’s countries have been hoarding their own supply of protective equipment, and even preventing their distribution to neighbouring countries.

It is understandable that one might have preferred Tedros to have been more affirmative in criticising the Chinese government at an early stage, but upon looking at the substance of the WHOs actions in protecting countries all around the world and the positive outcomes of his engagement with China within the boundaries of his power and mandate, it is unjustifiable to accuse the WHO of China-centricity. On the contrary, the WHO has championed international solidarity for the benefit of all of its member states at a time when nation states are focussed upon their own populations.

In respect of Taiwan, it is alleged that the WHO has ignored requests for direct dialogue with Taiwan which has undermined the WHOs credibility to be protecting all of humanity. Again, it is crucial to understand the WHO’s role. The WHO’s constitution is to monitor, coordinate and protect its member state in international public health. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, nor is it a member of WHO. This is not the fault of the WHO, but is a legitimate concern to be addressed by the United Nations and its member states. The WHO has no mandate, nor prerogative nor power to dialogue with Taiwan.

At a time when the WHO is tasked with the greatest international public health crisis for generations, with accountability towards 194 member states, it would be ill-conceived for Tedros to use his position to go beyond his mandate, and express his personal opinion on questions of political sovereignty for Taiwan, Hong Kong or for any other region around the world aspiring for self-determination. It is nonetheless a relief, and to the credit of health officials within Taiwan, that the region has been incredibly resilient and achieved relatively few cases of infection and death.

It is crucial that national governments take primary responsibility for the spread of the virus, and not divert blame towards the WHO. At the moment, it is national governments that have the budgets and necessary powers to protect their populations. It is becoming clear, through the wildly divergent development of infections and deaths when comparing different countries, that governments do have power to influence the spread of the virus within their own countries.

In the UK, the rapid pace of the virus’ spread and the rising death toll, were in part due to the significant delay in implementing a health strategy to defeat the virus. As Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet medical journal stated, after the WHO declared a public health emergency, ‘countries, especially western countries, didn’t listen. Or didn’t seek to understand what was actually taking place in China’. In the USA, even up to the end of February when dozens of cases had been confirmed through the country, President Trump described the coronavirus as a ‘hoax’ and urged the population to not take it seriously. The delay in acting has potentially caused thousands of additional fatalities.

In conclusion, none of the criticisms made against the WHO stand up to scrutiny. On the contrary, the WHO has acted with integrity, foresight and speed in the spirit of international solidarity. It has deployed its limited resources and capabilities to help ensure that countries around the world are able to contain and cope with the spread of the virus in difficult circumstances.

If our concern is that the WHO should have been more forceful in its relationship with China, the solution is to ensure that the WHO has better powers and a larger budget so that it has the means to exercise greater influence over nation states to the protect the international community as a whole. It is imperative that we act now to resist any threat made by world leaders to further limit the budget or power of the WHO. As Tedros said at the G20 summit on 26th March 2020

We know that the price we end up paying depends on the choices we make now.
This is a global crisis that demands a global response.

First, fight. Fight hard. Fight like hell.
Fight like your lives depend on it – because they do.

We may speak different tongues and adhere to different creeds, but we are made of the same stuff. We are one human race.

We have relied upon WHO to protect the entire global community. It has shown solidarity towards people all around the world, as one human race. But the WHO needs us, in as much as we need it.  We must resist any demand from national leaders to disempower the WHO or withdraw funds. We need solidarity, and as Tedros said, we must fight like our lives depend on it – because they do.

Episode Two: The Cutting Edge of Global Surgery

Is it possible for everyone to have safe, quality and affordable access to surgery, no matter what their background? Meet Dominique and Godfrey, two doctors from different parts of the world working to make that happen. Together, they developed Incision, a worldwide network of students making global surgery possible.