Amidst Growing Resistance, the WHO Turns Up Heat on Members to Sign Pandemic Treaty

Kevin Stocklin
By Kevin Stocklin
April 7, 2024US News
Amidst Growing Resistance, the WHO Turns Up Heat on Members to Sign Pandemic Treaty
A doctor holds a medical face mask with the World Health Organization's (WHO) flag. (kcube-Baytur/Shutterstock)

As the deadline approaches for the 194 member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to sign agreements granting broad new powers to this U.N. subsidiary, its advocates are turning up the heat on member countries to get on board, despite growing resistance to the deal.

On March 20, WHO Ambassador and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed a campaign by a “100+ pantheon of global leaders” urging member nations to sign.

“A high-powered intervention by 23 former national Presidents, 22 former Prime Ministers, a former UN General Secretary, and 3 Nobel Laureates is being made today to press for an urgent agreement from international negotiators on a Pandemic Accord, under the Constitution of the World Health Organization, to bolster the world’s collective preparedness and response to future pandemics,” stated a press release from the office of Gordon and Sarah Brown.

The WHO ambassador also called for worldwide action to “expose fake news disinformation campaigns by conspiracy theorists trying to torpedo international agreement for the Pandemic Accord.”

At stake is a new global medical treaty, as well as amendments to existing International Health Regulations (IHRs), which together would make the WHO the central authority during pandemics and other WHO-declared health crises, while sending tens of billions of dollars to this UN subsidiary. Critics say the WHO has studiously avoided calling the agreement a treaty because treaties typically require approval from national legislatures, and in the case of the United States by two-thirds of the Senate.

What has instead been deemed the Pandemic Agreement or Pandemic Accord, together with amendments to the IHRs, is scheduled to be approved in Geneva, Switzerland, at the World Health Assembly’s annual meeting on May 27–June 1.

On March 18, more than 80 ministers and church organizations added their voices to the “pantheon,” telling delegates from member countries that “reaching an agreement that ensures that everyone, everywhere can benefit from scientific advancement” was a moral obligation.

Tying the signing of WHO agreements to religious calendars, their letter stated that the gathering of WHO delegates “commences as Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan … when the second week of negotiations begins, Hindus will mark Holi … Christians will be observing lent, and you will conclude on Good Friday … the text of the Pandemic Accord will be finalised during Passover … and the Accord is due to be signed at the World Health Assembly just after Buddhists celebrate Vesak.”

How Much Power Will the WHO Get?

Despite these efforts, however, some still have doubts.

One of the primary concerns that critics have raised is that countries would cede authority to the WHO, once that organization declares a “health emergency.” WHO advocates, however, say such concerns are unfounded and giving voice to them could jeopardize the approval process.

“The accord is being put at risk by a misinformation campaign through social media outlets that is falsely accusing the WHO,” Mr. Brown stated.

“No country will cede any sovereignty, and no country will see their national laws set aside,” he stated. “It is time for countries to expose fake news disinformation campaign by conspiracy theorists to torpedo a much-needed accord.”

In line with that view, the Associated Press (AP) issued a “fact check” in February 2023, declaring that the idea that member nations would lose sovereignty was “false.” The AP cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is currently negotiating the agreement on America’s behalf, which stated: “It is false to claim that the World Health Organization has now, or will have by virtue of these activities, any authority to direct U.S. health policy or national health emergency response actions.”

The AP also cited a refutation from Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Gostin, who helped draft the treaty as director of the university’s WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. Mr. Gostin told the AP that the treaty uses terms like “should,” indicating suggestions, rather than “must,” to underscore that the WHO remains a consultative rather than an authoritative body.

However, the language in the March 13 draft of the treaty appears to be compulsory, stating throughout the document that “the Parties commit to …” and “the Parties shall …” with the word “shall” used more than 160 times.

In addition, the IHR amendments state that member states “recognize WHO as the guidance and coordinating authority of international public health response during a public health Emergency of International Concern and undertake to follow WHO’s recommendations in their international public health response.”

Other areas of concern regarding sovereignty include a directive that “health measures” stipulated by the WHO “shall be initiated and completed without delay by all Parties” and that “State Parties shall also take measures to ensure Non-State-Actors operating in their respective territories comply with such measures.”

In addition, references to the documents being “non-binding” on member states were removed.

“They are trying to make out that this is some mild feel-good agreement that won’t really affect anyone and therefore doesn’t need to go to national legislatures,” Dr. David Bell a public health physician who formerly worked with the WHO on infectious disease diagnostics, told The Epoch Times. Dr. Bell has been tracking the progress of the agreements with a critical eye.

Supporters of the agreements have also asserted that, regardless of what the documents say, the treaty and IHR amendments are toothless because the WHO will have no authority to enforce any of its directives or recommendations, and cannot force lockdowns or quarantines on member nations.

However, a 2022 petition signed by 15 state attorneys general argues that the HHS could have such authority once the WHO declares a health emergency.

The state AGs wrote in protest of an HHS decision on Jan. 19, 2017, “one day before President [Barack] Obama’s second term expired,” to give the Director-General of the WHO the authority to declare a public health emergency within the United States.

“Allowing an international organization to determine when public health emergencies exist in the United States necessarily allows that organization to use police powers that were neither given to it or to the federal government by the States,” the AGs stated, calling it “an extreme violation of both State and federal sovereignty.”

During a health emergency, the state AGs wrote, “HHS may provide for the apprehension and examination of individuals in certain infected states. Upon recommendation of the HHS Secretary, the President of the United States may also authorize the detention of individuals under certain circumstances.”

Is a Pandemic Treaty the Solution?

Another concern, critics say, is that the process of signing over new powers to the WHO has been needlessly rushed and avoids the public discussions and debates that should be part of the process when countries enter into treaties.

According to a report by a research group at the University of Leeds in the UK, co-authored by Dr. Bell, “Pandemic risk is characterized as an ‘existential threat to humanity’ and is being used to justify proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations and a new legally binding Pandemic Agreement.”

But the report argues that, based on the WHO’s own data, the evidence does not support the urgent need for, or the benefits of, giving more power to the WHO.

What the WHO claims is an escalating frequency of pandemics can be largely explained by improved diagnostic testing in recent decades, the authors say, nor is the proposed remedy of centralizing pandemic response within the WHO justified by objective facts.

“They require countries to comply because they’re saying that, during COVID countries didn’t act fast enough, and therefore they have to be told what to do,” Dr. Bell said. But the WHO has not explained how, if it had the authority it is now seeking, it would have saved more lives.

“The whole narrative that they need this at all is not supported by any evidence that they put forward,” he said.

Many policy analysts have argued that the WHO’s actions during COVID-19 did little to help the public and may have even exacerbated the crisis.

“The WHO should have played an important role in sharing information with member nations during a global pandemic, but instead it demonstrated that it could not and would not share information in a timely and accurate manner,” the state AGs wrote in their petition. “Instead of reporting public health information, the WHO chose to repeat Chinese propaganda regarding COVID.”

The WHO agreements also require that billions of dollars be paid to the WHO by member nations to enable it to carry out its new duties.

“This agenda is supported by unprecedented annual financial requests,” the Leeds University report states, including $36 billion in new member contributions and an additional $10 billion for what the WHO calls “One Health” interventions.

One Health, as defined in the Pandemic Agreement, is “an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems.” A One Health approach could effectively expand the authority of health officials into areas such as farming, pollution, and climate change.

US States Push Back

In response to the pandemic treaty, several U.S. states have taken steps to ensure that state authority is not superseded by the WHO agreements.

In May 2023, Florida passed a law that state health officials “may not adopt, implement, or enforce an international health organization’s public health policies or guidelines unless authorized to do so under state law, rule, or executive order issued by the Governor.”

“In this bill we formally reject W.H.O. and any of these international organizations,” Gov. Ron DeSantis stated.

In March, the Louisiana state senate unanimously approved a bill stating that “the World Health Organization, United Nations, and the World Economic Forum shall have no jurisdiction or power within the state of Louisiana.” That bill moved to the state House of Representatives for their consideration.

Tennessee lawmakers are currently working on legislation to give citizens the ability to “nullify” mandates that conflict with their constitutional rights. Public support for this legislation is growing, insiders say.

“Nullification is basically standing up to an unconstitutional law, rule, regulation or executive order,” Karen Bracken, founder of Tennessee Citizens for State Sovereignty, told The Epoch Times. “We’re a group that’s fighting to restore state sovereignty, hopefully restore it in every state, but we’re starting with Tennessee.”

Looking ahead to the World Health Assembly meeting next month, critics say that in addition to circumventing legislative approval by member states, the WHO may be running afoul of its own procedures to get the documents signed this spring. Some even suggest that the WHO may come away from the gathering in Geneva without a deal.

“It looks very likely that they won’t be able to agree on, certainly the pandemic agreement, and probably the IHR, before the deadline,” Dr. Bell said. Countries have not been given the time to assess how the agreements will impact their budgets, resources, and health systems, or the extent to which they are able to comply with terms, he said.

Dr. Meryl Nass, a physician who has been critical of the WHO, said that several countries, including New Zealand, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, have raised concerns about the agreements. And too many corners may have been cut to get the new health deal approved this spring, she said.

The WHO constitution “is very specific about what kinds of regulations the WHO can issue, and they’re limited,” Dr. Nass told The Epoch Times. “What has been put into the [IHR] amendments goes way beyond what they’re allowed to issue as regulations and would need to be issued as a treaty.”

From The Epoch Times

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