Originally published by David Thunder's Freedom Blog.
The Covid pandemic gave the World Health Organisation and its partners unprecedented visibility and a tremendous amount of “soft” power to shape public health law and policies across the world. Over the past year or so, the WHO has been pushing hard to consolidate and expand its power to declare and manage public health emergencies on a global scale.
The primary instruments for this consolidation are a WHO Pandemic Accord and a series of far-reaching amendments to existing International Health Regulations (IHR). The target date for finalising both the IHR Amendments and the new Pandemic Accord is March 2024.
The net effect of the proposed text for the pandemic accord and the proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations, would be to set in motion an extensive, WHO-led global bio-surveillance regime and significantly strengthen the authority of the World Health Organisation to direct and coordinate the international response to global and regional public health threats.
The IHR amendments alone, even without the pandemic accord, would be sufficient to convert the WHO into a powerful vehicle for controlling international health and vaccination policies. Anyone who has influence over the WHO, most notably its major donors, will find the WHO an even more useful instrument of power than before, should these amendments be ratified.
To get a flavour of how these changes in international law are likely to impact the policies of governments and citizens’ lives more broadly, it is sufficient to review a selection of the proposed amendments. While we do not know which of the amendments will survive the negotiation process, the direction of travel is alarming. Taken together, these amendments to International Health Regulations would push us in the direction of a global public health bureacracy with very little democratic accountability, with glaring conflicts of interest, and with significant potential for systematic harm to the health and liberties of citizens.
The amendments discussed below are drawn from a 46 page document hosted on the WHO webpage entitled “Article-by-Article Compilation of Proposed Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) submitted in accordance with decision WHA75(9) (2022).” Because these changes are being negotiated largely outside the frame of national electoral politics, the average citizens is barely aware of them.
But citizens have a right to know that the amended regulations as they stand would give unprecedented power to a WHO-led global health regime and its most influential financial and political stakeholders like the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations, all of which are largely beyond the reach of national voters and legislators. Furthermore, the amended regulations make it more difficult than ever for States to take sovereign decisions, informed by independent advice, concerning the management of infectious diseases. This loss of sovereignty will inevitably make citizens more vulnerable to the scientific, moral, and political errors of WHO and its “expert” advisors.
There are dozens of proposed amendments to the 2005 International Health Regulations. Here, I will highlight eight changes that are of special concern because of their implications for national sovereignty and civil rights:
WHO’s authority to coordinate emergency responses formally recognized
One of the amendments to IHR (International Health Regulations) reads, “States Parties recognize WHO as the guidance and coordinating authority of international public health response during public health Emergency of International Concern and undertake to follow WHO’s recommendations in their international public health responses.” Like many other treaty “undertakings,” the means for other parties to IHR to enforce this “undertaking” are limited. Nevertheless, States party to the new regulations would be legally binding themselves to adhere to WHO recommendations and may lose credibility or suffer politically for failing to follow through on their international treaty commitments.
Removal of reference to “dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms”
One of the most extraordinary and disturbing aspects of the proposed amendments to IHR is the removal of an important clause requiring that the implementation of the regulations be “with full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons.” In its place, the new clause reads that the implementation of the regulations shall be “based on the principles of equity, inclusivity, coherence and in accordance with their (the?) common but differentiated responsibilities of the States Parties, taking into consideration their social and economic development.” It is hard to know how any sane and responsible adult could justify removing “dignity, human rights, and fundamental freedoms” from International Health Regulations.
Removal of “non-binding” language
In the previous version of Article 1, WHO “recommendations” were defined as “non-binding advice.” In the new version, they are defined simply as “advice.” The only reasonable interpretation of this change is that the author wished to remove the impression that States were at liberty to disregard WHO “advice.” Insofar as signatories do “undertake to follow WHO’s recommendations in their international public health responses,” it would indeed appear that such advice becomes legally “binding” under the new regulations.
Expansion of scope of International Health Regulations
In the revised version of Article 2, the scope of IHR includes not only public health risks, but “all risks with a potential to impact public health.” Under this amendment, International Health Regulations, and their main coordinating body, the WHO, would be concerned not only with public health risks, but with every conceivable societal risk that might “impact” public health. Workplace stress? Vaccine hesitancy? Disinformation? Misinformation? Availability of pharmaceutical products? Low GDP? The basis for WHO intervention and guidance could be expanded indefinitely.
Consolidation of a Global, WHO-Led Health Bureacracy
Each State should nominate a “National IHR Focal Point” for “the implementation of health measures under these regulations.” These “focal points” could avail of WHO “capacity building” and “technical assistance.” IHR Focal Points, presumably manned by unelected bureacrats and “experts,” would be essentially nodes in a new WHO-led global health bureacracy. Other important aspects of this new global health bureacracy would be the WHO’s role in developing global “allocation plans for health products” (including vaccines) and the WHO’s role as an information hub for expanded disease surveillance and research units across the world.
Power of WHO Director-General to Declare a “Potential” Public Health Emergency
Under the revised regulations, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, “based on the opinion/advice of the Emergency Committee,” may designate an event as “having the potential to develop into a public health emergency of international concern, (and) communicate this and the recommended measures to State parties…” This gives the WHO much wider leeway to set in motion emergency protocols and recommendations. For who knows what a “potential” emergency amounts to?
Entrenchment and legitimation of an international bio-surveillance regime
Article 23, “Health Measures on arrival and departure,” authorises States to require that travellers produce certain medical credentials prior to travel, including “a non-invasive medical examination which is the least intrusive examination that could achieve the public health objective.” In the new draft, travellers may be required to produce “documents containing information…on a laboratory test for a pathogen and/or information on vaccination against a disease.” Essentially, this reaffirms and legally validates the vaccine passport regime that imposed prohibitive testing costs on unvaccinated citizens in 2021-23, and resulted in thousands and probably tens of thousands of people vaccinating just for the convenience of travelling, rather than based on health considerations.
Global initiatives for combating “false and unreliable information”
Both WHO and States bound by IHR, under the revised draft of IHR, “shall collaborate” in “countering the dissemination of false and unreliable information about public health events, preventive and anti-epidemic measures and activities in the media, social networks and other ways of disseminating such information.” Clearly the misinformation/disinformation amendments entail a propaganda and censorship regime. There is no other plausible way to interpret “countering the dissemination of false and unreliable information,” and this is exactly how anti-disinformation measures have been interpreted since the Covid pandemic was announced in 2020.
The joint effect of these eight changes would be to enthrone the WHO and its director-general at the head of an elaborate global health bureacracy beholden to the special interests of WHO patrons, a bureacracy that would be operated largely with the cooperation of State officials and agencies implementing “advice” and “recommendations” issued by the WHO, which State parties have legally undertaken to follow.
Though national States could, theoretically, renege on their legal undertakings under IHR and take a different path to that recommended by WHO, given that international treaties cannot be coercively enforced, nevertheless under the newly amended regulations, a highly centralised public health bureacracy would be protected by international law, and the WHO would have unprecedented authority to pressure States into complying with their edicts by shaming them into upholding their legal commitments. Thus, IHR, while it would operate upon State officials in a softer way than national, police-backed regulations, would certainly not be toothless.
The impact of the new global health bureacracy on the lives of ordinary citizens may be quite dramatic: it would erect a global censorship regime legitimated by international law, making challenges to officially sanctioned information harder than ever; and it would make international public health responses even more slavishly dependent on WHO directives than they were before, discouraging independent, dissenting responses such as that of Sweden.
Last but not least, the new global health bureacracy would put the fate of ordinary citizens – our national and international mobility, our right to informed consent to medication, our bodily integrity, and ultimately, our health – in the hands of public health officials acting in lockstep with WHO “recommendations.”
Apart from the fact that policy diversification and experimentation is essential to a robust healthcare system, and is crushed by a highly centralised response to health emergencies, the WHO is already riddled with internal conflicts of interest and a track record of catastrophically unsound judgments, making them singularly unqualified to reliably identify a global health emergency or coordinate the response to it.
To start with, the WHO’s income stream depends on individuals like Bill Gates who have significant financial stakes in the pharmaceutical industry. How can we possibly expect the WHO to make impartial, disinterested recommendations about, say, the safety and efficacy of vaccines, when its own donors are financially invested in the success of specific pharmaceutical products, including vaccines?
Secondly, to allow the WHO to declare an international public health emergency is to create an obvious perverse incentive: given that a large part of the raison d’être of a WHO-led global health bureacracy is to prevent, monitor, and respond to public health emergencies, the WHO’s Director-General has an obvious professional and institutional interest in declaring potential or actual public health emergencies. That is, after all, the best way to attract continuing investment in the WHO and to legitimate its expanding bureacracy.
Third, the WHO wasted no time in praising China’s brutal and ultimately unsuccessful lockdowns, continues to support the censorship of their critics, repeatedly recommended community masking in the absence of plausible evidence of efficacy, failed to warn the public in a timely manner about the serious risks of mRNA vaccines, and has entered into a partnership with the European Union to extend the discriminatory and coercive Covid vaccine certificate system globally. These are certainly not people I would trust as custodians of my bodily integrity, health, informed consent, or mobility.
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