Foreign Policy: Leading the International Recovery and Demanding Accountability

Foreign Policy: Leading the International Recovery and Demanding Accountability

COVID-19 deeply affected not just the United States but the world, and the U.S. has an important leadership role to play in global recovery. 

Recovery includes building and expanding upon relationships with allies and partners for mutual economic recovery and assisting countries in dealing with this unprecedented challenge. U.S. leadership in these areas has been strong and American generosity has been front and center. To aid other countries in dealing with COVID-19, the U.S. has committed more than $1.6 billion in emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance to scores of governments, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. This flexible approach has allowed the U.S. to respond quickly and to maximum effect. 

Recovery also entails American leadership in pushing for transparency and accountability from adversarial countries who have abused public trust. As happened in 2003 with the SARS outbreak, China was neither transparent nor cooperative about COVID-19. Beijing downplayed the seriousness of the disease, failed to share critical information on human transmission in a timely fashion, suppressed efforts by doctors in China to share samples and genetic information, and permitted Chinese citizens to travel from Wuhan on international flights even after clamping down on domestic travel. The entire world is dealing with the enormous cost in terms of life and prosperity caused by Chinese non-cooperation. In the future, it is essential that information coming from the unfree world is verifiable. 

Accountability is also necessary for international organizations whose negligence or poor decision-making adversely affected the health and economic well-being of people around the world. Despite the previous experience with SARS, and early evidence of obfuscation by Beijing, the World Health Organization (WHO) echoed Chinese representations of the nature of the threat from COVID-19 and lent its credibility to the Chinese regime. Even as internal frustration mounted over Beijing’s lack of transparency and cooperation, the WHO praised China repeatedly out of fear that criticism could further undermine Beijing’s limited cooperation. Due to the WHO’s failure to confront Beijing and alert governments about China’s obfuscation, the international community lost valuable time for containing COVID-19 and limiting its damage. The failing of the WHO during the COVID-19 outbreak cannot be allowed to recur. Without key changes, the WHO will fail the world, especially the neediest, once again.

Key Heritage Research:

  1. Brett D. Schaefer and Danielle Pletka, “What the World Health Organization Must Do to Earn Back U.S. Support,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 5098, August 7, 2020.
  2. James Jay Carafano, Walter Lohman, Nile Gardiner, Terry Miller, and Luke Coffey, “After COVID-19, Only U.S. Can Lead Way on Economic Recovery,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, June 18, 2020.
  3. Riley Walters and Dean Cheng, “How to Hold China Accountable for COVID-19,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, April 21, 2020.
  4. Dean Cheng, Walter Lohman, James Jay Carafano, and Riley Walters, “Assessing Beijing’s Power: A Blueprint for the U.S. Response to China over the Next Decades,” Heritage Foundation Special Report No. 221, February 10, 2020.
  5. James Jay Carafano, Brett D. Schaefer, Terry Miller, Nile Gardiner, Walter Lohman, and Luke Coffey, “International Organizations Are the Devil’s Playground of Great Power Competition,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, May 19, 2020.

Appendix of Heritage Research:


COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Path Ahead