Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Why Germany Will Be at the Center of the Next Pandemic

By Stéphanie Fillion

11 Jan 2022 · 7 min read

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) became a battlefield of global geopolitical infighting, especially between the United States and China. At the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva, the Trump administration withdrew its funding to the WHO, accusing it of being too “China-centric” and, by doing so, undermining the organization’s legitimacy. Meanwhile, Beijing used the WHO to gain influence globally by, among other things, promoting its “Health Silk Road.”

The WHO’s new permanent pandemic preparedness hub, located less than a two-hour flight away in Berlin, may not seem like it would provide much relief from the organization’s contentious politics. But the hub’s director, Chikwe Ihekweazu—former head of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control and an assistant director-general at the WHO—believes it is the perfect location for the WHO to start a new chapter in its history. “I think Berlin is an interesting place for it because it provides the proximity to Geneva, which we need, but still a bit of distance,” he told Foreign Policy. The new hub, set up in one of Europe’s top tech cities, aims at using cutting-edge technology and a multidisciplinary approach to gather analyze data that will help detect and prevent the next pandemic.

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