Hillary Clinton: 'No way' there is global COVID-19 response without the US

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo by: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA

WASHINGTON — The United States must lead in the global response to COVID-19 and that will require advocates to convince Congress to commit resources, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at an event Tuesday.

“Our health system was overwhelmed, our public health institutions did not meet the moment as we would have hoped, our leadership has been erratic, inconsistent, incoherent. So we have a lot of work to do at home … but the United States must lead on the international front as well,” she said at a virtual event organized by CARE.

“Are we going to continue to push forward our agenda for gender equality, or are we going to stall or even fall back?”

— Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state

Clinton went on to say that she fully supports the organization’s campaign to convince Congress to appropriate money for the global coronavirus response. CARE, and other humanitarian and development organizations, are advocating for Congress to provide $12 billion in additional funding. The most recent bill that passed the House of Representatives did not include global funding, and a bill from Senate Democrats proposes about $9 billion.

The decision by the Trump administration to pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization is “inexplicable,” Clinton said but added that Trump doesn’t have the ability to do so on his own and Congress will have to be involved first.

She said she couldn’t fathom how the United States, which has been a global health leader, including on HIV/AIDS under President George W. Bush, “would be retreating from that leadership and from the only international organization that is tasked with trying to keep us healthy and respond to epidemics” at a time when many of the world’s poorer countries are just seeing things get worse.

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“There is no way that we can have a global response that helps people across the world, but also, let's be honest, helps us here at home, without the United States providing leadership and financial resources,” Clinton said.

The U.S. must also pay special attention to women in its response to the pandemic, ensuring they can protect themselves, their families, and their communities; that health workers have the supplies they need to treat patients; and that women have leadership roles at the national and international level.

“Women have to be at the table and women's voices and experiences have to be heard and respected if we’re going to be able to deal not just with the pandemic today but with the future of the pandemic, because unfortunately, it’s going to be around for quite some time,” she said.

Twenty-five years after giving her historic speech in Beijing stating that “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” Clinton said she believes some progress has been made — in education, health care, laws allowing women to inherit property and join the workforce. But there is still work to do on full economic and political participation.

“We're at either a pivot or inflection point,” she said. “Are we going to continue to push forward our agenda for gender equality, or are we going to stall or even fall back?”

“We have to recognize that as much progress as we've made, even in advanced economies and democracies, there's always a danger of being pushed back that we have to stand against while we help our friends and allies across the world to make more progress as well,” she said.

Clinton encouraged advocates to reach out to members of Congress to make the case for “retaining our leadership in global progress and institutions that matter.”

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.