Maajid Nawaz grills ex-WHO boss on China relationship amid Trump statement

30 May 2020, 15:49 | Updated: 30 May 2020, 17:17

By Seán Hickey

As President Trump pulled the US from its relationship with the WHO, a former director defended the honour of the organisation.

Professor Anthony Costello is a professor of Global Health at UCL and a former director at the World Health Organisation. He was speaking to Maajid Nawaz in the wake of Donald Trump's announcement that the United States will pull out of the World Health Organisation.

Maajid was taking no prisoners in his examination of the WHO, playing devils advocate in his questioning of Professor Costello. He began by questioning the suitability of the current Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom. Maajid stated that "there are concerns about his background."

He went on to argue that the current WHO boss took part in "brutal and genocidal acts" while a minister in Ethiopia and put to Professor Costello that "the only reason he is head of the organisation is China supported him." Professor Costello argued that Dr. Tedros is "the only UN head of an agency that has been elected" and although Maajid put forth that China had publicly supported him to win, the ex-director argued that he was democratically elected whether China supported him or not.

Maajid stuck to Dr Tedros, adding that he had appointed "Robert Mugabe, a known war criminal, as a Good Will Ambassador as part of the UN." Professor Costello accepted that this was wrong and could see why there may be skepticism around the Director for such an action.

Maajid then prodded the former WHO chief, asking "do you think this is partly why Trump is upset?"

Donald Trump ended the US' relationship with the WHO over allegations that China controls the organisation
Donald Trump ended the US' relationship with the WHO over allegations that China controls the organisation. Picture: PA

"I agree with you and agree you can question Tedros' role when he was in Ethiopia" Professor Costello stated, but added that he was punished within the WHO and so this should stand as a positive for the organisation.

The former director added that he is "not defending the WHO in all regards" and went further to state that he "would implement a reform program" if he was in charge today.

Professor Costello went on to explain that the WHO should focus on it's medical work and move away from diplomacy. He told Maajid that the organisation has done remarkable work in the past such as eradicating smallpox and insisted that "that's the bit we need to defend."

Maajid accepted Professor Costello's points, asking if "the solution wouldn't be to cut ties with them" referencing President Trump's action against the organisation. The former director said that it is definitely not the solution.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify