Russia suffered a setback on Friday by failing to block Ukraine’s entry into the Executive Council of the World Health Organization (WHO), which also saw the arrival of North Korea. The ten countries that finally joined the Executive Board for three years are usually elected en bloc by acclamation during the World Health Assembly, whose 76th session is currently taking place in Geneva.

But due to Moscow’s attempt to block Ukraine from joining this forum of 34 member countries, which plays an important role in the governance of the WHO, a vote had to be taken for the first time since 1977. The result was final, the candidates, nominated by each of the 6 WHO regions, were elected by 123 votes against 13 abstentions.

“Today’s vote marked a resounding defeat for Russia, which has failed in its reckless attempts to undermine the authority of WHO regional committees and disrupt the work of the World Health Assembly and of its executive council,” said Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko. “Health should not be politicized. The OMS must be able to function normally. France congratulates Ukraine, elected with 9 other countries to the executive council, despite Russia’s obstruction attempts,” welcomed the French representation in a tweet.

On the other hand, the representative of Russia, indicated that he “deeply regretted the fact that the Assembly voted for a country which will only further politicize the work of the Executive Committee. We are against the politicization of the work of the World Health Assembly and the WHO as a whole.”

But that was not the only acrimonious exchange of this session. The United States regretted to see North Korea also join the group of 34 countries of the Executive Council, on the proposal of the Southeast Asia region. The US representative attacked “the appalling record of the Democratic Republic of North Korea in human rights violations, regularly documented by the UN and widely condemned by the international community. »

She called on Pyongyang “to respect human rights, fulfill its obligations under Security Council resolutions, and practice serious and enduring diplomacy.” The Pyongyang delegate’s response was also scathing, after assuring his concern to work with all in a “spirit of cooperation and solidarity”: “We deeply regret that a country (…) tries to abuse this forum for its own despicable political ends and pushes for confrontation”. In addition to Ukraine and North Korea, Australia, Barbados, Cameroon, Comoros, Lesotho, Qatar, Switzerland and Togo are joining the Executive Council.