Coronavirus: World Health Organization let down by United Nations during pandemic - Helen Clark

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been let down by the United Nations (UN) and left to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on its own, former Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

She believes because the UN Security Council hasn't helped WHO with its efforts in fighting the pandemic, it's now been "left out to dry".

It's very "unfortunate" there's a lack of coordinated global action, because that's what the world needs during a pandemic, Clark says.

"In some ways [WHO] has been [let down by the UN] because it's been left alone to try to manage a pandemic. The WHO is an organisation of member states, and because it doesn't have any power or force over member states it has to get their cooperation. That's why it treads very, very carefully - you'll never see it criticising anyone," she said during an interview on Rebuilding Paradise with Paul Henry.

"But in a sense it's been left out to dry because the Security Council hasn't come in behind it and its efforts.

"It's very unfortunate because if there's ever a moment when the world needs coordinated global action, it is now. What began as a health crisis - eventually declared a pandemic - is now a full-blown economic and social crisis."

Clark says part of the Security Council's issue is its "toxic geopolitics have stopped it doing anything useful at all".

Referencing the 2014 Ebola crisis, she says the Security Council immediately spun into action and passed a resolution declaring the virus a threat to peace and security. UN resolutions have binding forces on member states, and these members were called upon to do whatever they could to avert the virus' threat.

"On this pandemic, which clearly is having immensely more widespread effects than Ebola did - albeit that Ebola was a more deadly disease - we just haven't heard a thing because you can't get agreement at the Security Council.

"Then you come to the WHO - which I am a defender of because I think in the circumstances it's done the best job that it could - but it needs member states to follow its advice. It needs member states, like China, to report very rapidly when they detect that there is a new virus on the move which could cause a pandemic. And of course neither of these two things happened."

Calls for an emergency pandemic council

Clark believes one way there can be a coordinated global response to COVID-19 is by establishing a pandemic council comprised of the UN Secretary-General, the Director-General of WHO, and heads of the World Bank and IMF.

"If you had those four as a standing council right now each reaching out to their constituencies, and then the IMF and World Bank reach out to finance ministers… then I think you would get a better response."

Her reason for asking these groups to band together follows a piece of advice she received while she was campaigning to be UN Secretary-General. She was told by a seasoned diplomat that you don't ask the Security Council to take action, you instead just go on and do it yourself.

"If the Security Council doesn't want to play into the action, maybe the heads of the multinational organisations need to step up now and take an initiative."

Once COVID-19 has passed after a significant period of time, Clark hopes a review is conducted into how each country responded to the pandemic.

"There needs to be a full review of what happened, who did what when and how. We have been a fortunate country in the sense that we have an epidemic oversight committee, we're very open and transparent, we know what our Government did, when it did it, how it did it… that's not a luxury that people have in China."

Watch her full interview with Paul Henry above.