Estonian minister: Russia should be barred from WHO decision-making process

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) speaking at the WHO's 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva. May 24, 2022.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) speaking at the WHO's 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva. May 24, 2022. Source: Ministry of Social Affairs/Flickr

The Russian Federation and other aggressor states should not be allowed to participate in the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision-making process, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said at the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

"Three months ago, on February 24, our world changed because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's regime refused to give peace a chance," Kiik said in his address to the assembly according to the Ministry of Social Affairs. "The Russian Federation's large-scale war against Ukraine will have devastating consequences for health and well-being that can last for generations. Estonia condemns Russia's military aggression in the strongest of terms. We stand with Ukraine and its people in this difficult times — in words and, more importantly, in actions."

This year's World Health Assembly is focused on the theme of "Health for Peace, Peace for Health." According to Kiik, this theme has a broad consensus among most WHO member states — but not all.

"The Russian Federation, which is brutally killing children and other civilians, and bombing homes, schools and hospitals, should not be allowed to take part in the WHO's decision-making until full respect of international law and human rights is restored," the Estonian minister said. "The same applies for all other aggressor states. Also, the WHO's European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases should be relocated [from Moscow]. This is the least we can do."

The World Health Assembly is the primary decision-making body of the WHO and is comprised of 194 member states. Each year, delegates from all member states of the WHO convene at the assembly to agree on the organization's priorities and policies.

Estonia was among 46 member states to propose a resolution at the assembly on Monday entitled "Health emergency in Ukraine and refugee receiving and hosting countries, stemming from the Russian Federation's aggression."

"The human suffering and loss of lives the war is causing is unbearable and must be stopped," Kiik emphasized in his address. "Moreover — it should have never been allowed to happen."

In the framework of the assembly, Baltic delegations in Geneva also met with Ukrainian Minister of Healthcare Viktor Liashko and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

On March 9, the ministers of health of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sent Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge a joint appeal in which they called on the WHO to provide comprehensive support to Ukraine's medical system and bar Russia from the organization's decision-making process.

Thus far, Estonia has provided Ukraine with more than €235 million worth of humanitarian and defense aid, including weapons, medicine and medical supplies.

Click here (link to PDF) to read the full text of the resolution passed at the World Health Assembly on Monday.

Click here for more information about and video recordings from the WHO's 75th World Health Assembly.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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