Setting the Record Straight on WHO Funding

Debating the Money Behind the Global Public Health Agenda


Christy Feig

Sonia Shah's recent piece on ForeignAffairs.com, "How Private Companies Are Transforming the Global Public Health Agenda," makes a number of erroneous statements about how the World Health Organization (WHO) is financed and the sources of its funding. Chief among them is the following claim:

"Voluntary contributions from private interests and others now bankroll four out of every five dollars of the WHO's budget."

The fact is that WHO has two main sources of funding. All member states pay assessed contributions (the dues calculated relative to a country's wealth and population), which, since 2006, make up around 25 percent of the WHO's revenues. Assessed contributions are, by definition, government funds. The second source of funding indeed comes from voluntary contributions. These make up about 75 percent of WHO's annual income. But Shah misrepresented the case in stating that such voluntary contributions come primarily from private interests.

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