WHO Flag

Lost among the post-election hullabaloo was a great editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling out Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, for the organization’s failure to contain the Ebola crisis in West Africa. This in and of itself is nothing new. One of the casualties of the Ebola crisis has been the WHO’s credibility.

The editors at the Wall Street Journal were irritated that in a recent speech Dr. Chan attempted to deflect responsibility and place blame on, you guessed it, capitalism, racism and wealthy Western democracies. That’s right according to Dr. Chan, it’s all our fault.

In its editorial titled, “WHO Is Responsible?” the Journal argues:

Speaking Monday in front of the Regional Committee for Africa in Cotonou, Benin, Dr. Chan attributed the Ebola crisis to the world’s “deaf ears for decades” over two WHO warnings “that are now out there with consequences that all the world can see, every day, on prime-time TV news.” The first was that the outbreak is the result of neglect of “fundamental public health infrastructures,” by which she means too little funding.

Dr. Chan’s second indictment is even more remarkable. “Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago,” she said. “Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually nonexistent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay. WHO has been trying to make this issue visible for ages.”

Dr. Chan ignores President George W. Bush’s extraordinary effort to combat AIDS in Africa — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), holds a unique place in the history of public health for its size and scope and won high praise.

The Journal concludes, “What Dr. Chan means is that since the 1990s the WHO has devoted ever-more of its resources to political activism instead of its core disease-fighting mission—a loss of focus that helps explain why the WHO failed to contain Ebola when it was less rampant.”

I have a difficult time believing lack of funding is the real issue here. Last month the WHO hosted its big Conference of the Parties (COP) in Moscow. The highlight of the conference was a luxury gala featuring “Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce, Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish late of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, eel mix; Smoked eel, and Salmon under white syrup with flying fish caviar.”

“Guests were even offered official excursions, including a visit to the Kremlin’s armory chamber.”

The very purpose of the conference and the manner in which it was conducted provides clues as to why Ebola is raging out of control right under the nose of Dr. Chan. As Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute wrote:

But just like a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn, the United Nations periodically does something that genuinely would expand the power and burden of government.

And that’s what happening this week in Moscow. Under the “leadership” of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, hundreds of bureaucrats have descended on the city for the “Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).”

But this isn’t the usual junket. The bureaucrats are pushing to create “guidelines” for tobacco taxation. Most notably, they want excise taxes to be at least 70 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

I’m not a supporter of tobacco, but in the following video Dr. Arthur Laffer explains why increasing tobacco taxes to 70% would be a bad idea for participating governments:

Nevertheless, the WHO did exactly that. But here’s the real kicker. They did it in secret … after kicking the public and the press out of the conference:

After booting the public from its meetings on Monday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco control convention ramped up its assault on transparency on Tuesday when the press was also banned from the Moscow conference.

Shortly after the media was removed from the convention, the U.N.’s health agency secretly passed the world’s first ever global tax — an outrageous scheme requiring nearly 180 countries to apply a minimum tax on tobacco products.

All indications were that the global tobacco tax would not pass until Thursday or Friday, if at all. Without the public and the media there to watch, delegates ratified the tax almost immediately.

We don’t need to indulge in detailed analysis as to why Ebola has become a global crisis. Ebola isn’t the result of racism or capitalism. Instead, as the Wall Street Journal argues, the global organization designed to combat these kinds of things has instead made political activism its main priority.