Undue influence? Anonymous donations to World Health Organization’s new foundation raise concerns

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. anonymous / əˈnɒn ə məs / (adj.) – not named

    I wish I could personally thank the anonymous donors who supported our community project.

  2. conflict of interest / ˈkɒn flɪkt ʌv ˈɪn tər ɪst / (idiom) – a situation in which someone’s personal interest such as family, friendships, etc., could compromise his/her judgment, decisions, or actions in a workplace, organization, etc.

    Businessmen shouldn’t be allowed to run for politics if there’s a conflict of interest.

  3. philanthropic / fɪl ənˈθrɒp ɪk / (adj.) – connected with the practice of giving something, such as money or time, to people who need it

    We are a philanthropic organization dedicated to feeding homeless people.

  4. stand out / stænd aʊt / (phrasal v.) – to be much better or more important than other similar things or people

    The singer stood out in the competition because of her powerful and unique singing style.

  5. onslaught / ˈɒnˌslɔt / (n.) – a strong, violent attack

    The onslaught of the typhoon greatly damaged people’s properties.


Read the text below.

Nearly 40% of the money raised by the WHO Foundation in its first two years came from anonymous sources, worrying some that donors may be trying to influence the World Health Organization and its role in shaping global health policy with their gifts.

The foundation, launched in 2020 to help raise private sector funds for the WHO, said it received $66 million in direct gifts through 2022, with $26 million coming from donors who chose not to be publicly named. Anil Soni, WHO Foundation CEO, told The Associated Press the foundation’s board, which includes a representative from the WHO, knows the donors’ identities and that the foundation will not accept a gift if there is a conflict of interest.

“They want to be anonymous because they’re otherwise solicited or even targeted because they’re seen to be a source of wealth,” Soni said in an interview. “And I respect that.”

Some global health practitioners worry anonymous donations make it harder to spot potential conflicts of interest. They say companies may donate to the foundation to influence the WHO’s global health policies and reports that often have wide-ranging ramifications. For example, food and beverage companies took note when two branches of the WHO found that the sweetener aspartame — used in diet soda and countless foods — may be a “possible” cause of cancer.

“For the integrity of the WHO, I think it’s really important that there’s some greater transparency around this,” said Sophie Harman, professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London, of the anonymous donations, which include a single anonymous gift of $20 million to the foundation’s operating expenses.

Private and philanthropic funding has long supported other large global health organizations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but Harman said the WHO has stood out as the publicly funded body that also sets standards across all areas of health.

The bulk of the WHO’s funding comes from governments. But in 2020, with the onslaught of the pandemic and then-President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw from the WHO, many hoped the WHO Foundation might generate new financing from wealthy individuals, the private sector and public fundraising campaigns.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Some worry that donors may be trying to influence the WHO and its role in shaping global health policy. How do you think the WHO can make sure this doesn’t happen (ex. diversify funding sources, limit donations)? Discuss.
  • Some global health practitioners worry anonymous donations make it harder to spot potential conflicts of interest. What particular conflict of interest do you think some anonymous donors might have (ex. improving public image, commercial interest)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your opinion, should organizations welcome anonymous donors? Would you ever accept a gift from an anonymous person? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What do you think are the possible reasons for maintaining anonymity? Do you think these are reasonable? Why or why not? Discuss.