At a special session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, convened by all EU countries except Hungary, as well as Iceland, Norway, Great Britain and Ukraine, the countries forced the WHO’s hand with regard to the closure of the office for non-communicable diseases of in Moscow. The office will be moved to Copenhagen “at the latest” on January 1, 2024.
This marks an important moment for the WHO, which tries to remain politically neutral while condemning actions that harm human health. European countries that pushed for the office’s relocation argued in an April letter that “the immediate and long-term health impact in Ukraine and beyond, caused by Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, continues be a matter of utmost concern”.
Most of the countries present at Monday’s meeting voted in favor of the resolution, which comes almost exactly a year after they started the procedure. POLITICO reported in October that staff in the Moscow office were quietly moved out of the country, leaving only a handful of Russian WHO employees and 11 consultants.
But the full relocation has been plagued by bureaucratic hurdles, particularly because there is only one official annual event where European countries can vote on the move, with the next meeting in October.
To get around this problem, the EU, Norway, Ukraine and the UK convened a special session of the Regional Committee for Europe, something that has only happened twice before, once in 2022 to discuss moving the office and once in 1954 to establish the WHO office for Europe.
Denmark has announced that 12 countries will supplement the 5.6 million dollars a year that Russia contributed to the operating costs of the Moscow office.
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