Global leaders, organizations and businesses on Monday came up short of their goal of raising $8 billion to fund the international response to the coronavirus pandemic, but called the initial funds raised a solid starting point.
The initiative, spearheaded by the European Union (EU) and backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), fell about $100 million short after three hours of pledging, which included world leaders and global philanthropists beaming in on remote video to announce their donations.
Noticeably absent from the worldwide pledging fund were the U.S. and Russia, while representatives from China; European leaders; heads of state from Japan, Canada, South Africa, Turkey, Israel and Australia; Jordan’s King Abdullah II; and Saudi Arabia’s health minister provided video messages announcing their donations.
“Today the world showed extraordinary unity for the common good,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
“However, this is only the beginning. We need to sustain the effort and to stand ready to contribute more. The pledging marathon will continue. After governments, civil society and people worldwide need to join in, in a global mobilisation of hope and resolve.”
The funds are meant to help scale up efforts in diagnostics, treatments and the development of vaccines against COVID-19.
French President Emanual Macron, who donated $500 million to the effort, said he spoke with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump predicts virus death toll could reach 100,000 in the US Pence says he should have worn mask during Mayo Clinic visit Trump says next coronavirus relief bill has to include payroll tax cut MORE about joining the global effort and is convinced the U.S. will do so in the future, and is only “on the sidelines” at the moment, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. on Monday defended its role as a world leader in health, humanitarian and economic assistance across the globe, despite its absence from the event.
A senior Trump administration official welcomed the EU efforts to secure pledges and said American assistance supports such efforts outside of global cooperation.
“Many of the organizations and programs this pledging conference seeks to support already received very significant funding and support from the U.S. government and private sector, and we would welcome additional high quality, transparent contributions from others,” the official said.
President Trump halted funding for the WHO last month pending a review of the organization’s leadership, expected to last up to three months.
Trump and administration officials have accused the global health body of holding a bias toward China and criticized it for failing to demand more transparency into Beijing’s initial reporting of the outbreak that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
There are nearly 3.6 million coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide and almost 250,000 deaths, according to the most recent numbers provided by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.