WHO Is Going to Be In Charge? The World Health Organization’s Lack of Guidance In The 21st Century – Blessing Ikpa

When the first cases of Ebola was first documented in Yambuku, Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1976, the lack of technology and knowledge led the World Health Organization (WHO) to not take necessary actions as needed. As information was made readily available as to how to combat Ebola, the fight to end the epidemic became more strategic. 300 people died due to Ebola in this time, but with the help of  the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola had been eradicated for the time being.

With the second outbreak of Ebola to hit present-day DRC, many people became frustrated as to the lack of resources being readily available. Knowing what the disease entails, why wouldn’t a vaccine be prepared for when the next outbreak was surely going to hit the area? Many other outbreaks were noted by Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council of Foreign Relations, and others couldn’t understand why WHO still has not taken the initiative to step in and find preventable ways to treat this disease. When Ebola was first discovered in the United States, many people were quick to find a solution and prevent the disease from causing an outbreak. This has left people to wonder whether consideration is only given to developed countries who have the economic and sustainable means to combat such a disease.

The World Health Organization centers itself around being the globally known institution in which people can lean on in terms of national disasters, epidemics and other prominent health crises. Time and energy has been spent into reconfiguring WHO, but not as much resources have been poured into building up local and national health systems, primarily in developing countries. In Garrett’s article, “How the WHO Mishandled the Crisis,” detailed examples are given as to how the WHO failed with other grave outbreaks such as HIV and Swine Flu. WHO has portrayed themselves in an unfortunate light, with being too fixated on governance and politics and not giving much consideration to actual situations that need to be addressed.

With WHO having the governing power and authority that they possess, more efforts should be placed in elevating local and national health systems. When outbreaks are first beginning in an area, it is imperative that local physicians have the knowledge of what is going on and how to combat the outbreak before it becomes an epidemic. There is a level of frustration when consultation with WHO goes nowhere. By the time WHO effectively steps in (concerning developing countries), hundreds of people have died and there is still no solution to the actual disease itself. Coming from a place of understanding, WHO has been gridlocked into deciding between action or inaction. There has been a discussion surrounding when WHO should intervene and if it is too early to intervene within a country. Yet, WHO would not have to spend so much time deciding whether or not to intervene medically if local and national health systems were able to decipher for themselves what needs to be done.

When the WHO confirmed an Ebola outbreak in March 2014, it was not until five months later that WHO declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This goes back to the inefficiency in the WHO being able to detect outbreaks and effectively work alongside local health systems in order to contain the outbreak. It’s not possible to keep every person alive who comes into contact with the disease, but the high numbers of people dying because of ineffectiveness on the ends of local health systems and WHO is unacceptable.

The World Health Organization, along with other prominent institutions in the United Nations, are focused on their status among powerful countries. Especially with powerful countries who are often high-dollar donors to international institutions, keeping the donors happy is something many organizations face on a daily basis. Yet, as powerful as WHO and the UN are, there needs to be effective pushback towards these countries.

Yes, WHO was able to respond in a more timely manner to the outbreak of Zika (even though the outbreak was not nearly as large as Ebola), but this does not deter from their inefficiency as an international organization. This does not correlate to the WHO learning their lesson from the Ebola epidemic. Rather, they have overcompensated in terms of trying to stay ahead of outbreaks, which is admirable. But can we confidently believe that WHO has learned from the past? Does WHO only learn when outbreaks reach the Western world and/or donor countries? Hopefully, WHO will learn to work alongside local and national health systems in order to advance the health and protection of all people.


Can UN Peace Operations Evolve With the World Around Them? – Blessing Ikpa

The United Nations Peace Operations is comprised of individuals who are experienced in the areas of conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding with attempts to highlight places in need of change. With its creation in 1948, the conversation around military force being deployed in peace operations has been evolving. Yet, has it evolved to the standards of the 21st century?  There needs to be a strict boundary in which the usage of UN Peace Operations is properly enforced when need be, with regard being given to the autonomy of sovereignty of its member-states.

The concept of sovereignty is important to any member-state of the United Nations, which makes using military force in peace operations more difficult to navigate. Thomas Weiss et al. (2014) arguably note how the Security Council was largely missing in humanitarian matters during the Cold War. Now, the Security Council has found them in the complicated relationship of employing military force too soon. It is important that UN Peacekeepers fulfill mandates to protect citizens of member-states but the use of force has become more robust with “war-fighting mandates” that could be alleviated.

The United Nations has always stood behind the notion that no member-state will be forced to follow or participate in a specified mandate. Even though the peace operations have been deployed into Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Syria, there is nothing holding countries to uphold peace mandates. With the situation in the Balkans, all eyes were on the great powers for the political environment in the background. China and Russia were debating on even labeling the situation as a “humanitarian bombing”, which leads to how powerful countries can have a stronger say over the UN. Even if the answer to war crimes is through the international courts, this does not mean that a proper answer to positive peace can happen.

In another internal report on the UN Peace Operations, a few bullet points were laid out such as:

  • Engaging with host countries and local communities to ensure mission success
  • Improving speed, capability, and performance of unified personnel
  • The full spectrum of peace operations must be used more flexibly to respond to changing needs on the ground
  • The UN Secretariat must become more field-focused and UN peace operations must be more people-centered.

Though many of these points are valid and should be fully implemented, the possibility of coming to fruition is daunting. Though the UN Peace Operations have evolved since the 1990s in terms of strategy and challenges to the growth of operations, but has not reached the level of being “people-centered” and “field-focused”. Cases of sexual violence from peacekeepers and confusion around the responsibility to protect does not gain traction of being able to keep up with the changing world around us.

The guiding principles of UN Peace Operations are Impartiality, Consent, and Limited Use of Force. None of these principles have been adequately met since the idea of peacekeeping is still relatively new to the United Nations. The lines between peace mandates and the responsibility to protect have been blurred significantly. When fulfilling a peace mandate, the idea of state sovereignty is only “contingent on responsible governmental behavior” as stated from Weiss. How can peace be positively accomplished if sovereignty can only be respected when a country is acting according to vague terms? Nothing can be executed sufficiently if there is not a clear, consistent value in achieving positive peace?

With an internal review conducted of UN Peace Operations, a recommendation was given on creating effective strategies for conflict prevention but does not accurately touch on the topic of military intervention and the use of force. When the United Nations is found with the challenge of intervening, military force should not always be at use. The Secretariat is given the power to apply “best-case planning assumptions” when needed, but if this continues to only use the voices of great powers, peace cannot be achieved. The United Nations as an international organization must work to gain credibility over countries such as Russia, China, and the United States.

The efficiency and credibility of the United Nations, along with various other international institutions, is beginning to reach a turning point. Even if NATO was to become more involved, what would this mean for the fulfillment of peace mandates? Powerful countries and their political adversaries have cluttered the usefulness of the UN Peace Operations. If peace is going to be achieved, the use of military force and the decline of state sovereignty must be fully addressed. Even though the UN Peace Operations have made strides, this could all become futile if credibility and sustainability is lost.