The attempt by the United States and other Western countries at the World Health Assembly late last month to amend the International Health Regulations and strengthen the arm of the WHO in health emergencies foundered for lack of support from African nations, among others, who appear to have regarded the effort as imperialistic. This is good news, as no good can come of giving a larger role (and budget) to the WHO, which disgraced itself repeatedly during the Covid pandemic, most crucially by throwing away the existing pandemic preparedness guidance and the science it was based on and allowing itself to become a cheerleader and channel for the deadly new pseudo-science of lockdowns, as invented by the Chinese Communist Party on January 23rd 2020.
Last week’s failed amendments were bad, but they were not a new treaty and would not, as some suggested, have given the WHO power to impose lockdowns on countries (the WHO’s power to declare a health emergency in a country without its consent is already part of the IHR). There is, however, a new pandemic treaty in the pipeline, to be negotiated and drafted over the next few years. Quite why a new treaty is needed is not really clear, as there is already a treaty that covers pandemics, namely the International Health Regulations. It also isn’t clear that a new treaty is politically possible; if countries can’t even agree on amendments to the existing international pandemic rules they seem unlikely to be able to agree and pass a whole new treaty on the subject. Plus, a new treaty, if passed, would be most unlikely to involve countries agreeing to cede sovereignty to the WHO to impose lockdowns and other emergency measures within their territories without their consent.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we should be complacent, particularly as the U.K. Government responded to the recent petition calling for a referendum of the British electorate before signing any pandemic treaty (signed by over 150,000 people so far) by doubling down and committing itself to agreeing to a “legally binding” treaty that is not yet even drafted. True, it’s international law so there is no court to enforce it, and as noted above countries are unlikely to agree to cede real control over their pandemic responses. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about the Government committing to sign an undrafted “legally binding” WHO pandemic treaty, not least that creating a whole international pandemic bureaucracy that depends for its purpose, existence and funding on the occurrence of pandemics is undoubtedly to open the door to overreaction and overreach, even more than we have already. The last thing we need is the WHO putting the world on permanent pandemic alert and pushing for ‘precautionary’ lockdowns every time a bat sneezes or a lab leaks.
Brian Monteith at Time for Recovery has set out seven reasons the Government should not support or sign a new WHO pandemic treaty. Here are his first four.
1. There is no sense, no logic, no rational justification for rushing into accepting the terms of a binding international treaty on future pandemic responses when we have not had our Public Inquiry to determine what we should avoid doing in future. Given the clear and uncontested levels of incompetence and miscalls in the authorities’ panic to respond to COVID-19 there is every probability that the same mistakes will be repeated, with lives lost, livelihoods ruined, education forever lost and the future of generations put at risk if we do not wait and learn the lessons of the Inquiry’s findings. We need to understand what we got right and what we got wrong before agreeing to who will decide our response in the future.
2. The Government has no democratic mandate to sign away its responsibilities to protect and guard the safety of the British people. The Government has a duty of care to ensure that the best public health responses are made. This does not rule out the Government agreeing to take up recommendations that WHO might choose to make in the future, but such decisions should only be appropriate when they can be assessed against what is required in the best interests of the British people – not what is decided by a majority of unaccountable people whose interests, no matter how well intentioned, lie elsewhere.
3. The poor record of WHO during the pandemic does not justify agreeing any international treaty that cedes power over decisions to the institution, not least because it is open to manipulation by foreign powers and multi-national corporations – both groups whose interests will often conflict with those of the British people. Do we really want China, or Russia or other such powers deciding in consort that we should lockdown and have international law on their side so that it may be enforced against our wishes? The variations in international responses – between that of Sweden (minimal restrictions, low pandemic deaths) and Peru (highly restrictive lockdowns and high pandemic deaths) – is wide. Why should the U.K. not set its own course rather than be told what our response must be?
4. There is every possibility that what WHO decides will be wrong. There is an understandable and acceptable case for shared levels of information gathering, dissemination of research and learning from experiences that shape best practice – but this is completely different from a Government abdicating its ability to choose how to act, not least when it can mean confining people to their homes, preventing them from meeting family, being able to work, attend school, walk on a park, attend a wedding or a funeral, pray together in a place of worship – and be criminalised for not accepting such restrictions. If our Government gets its decisions wrong it is accountable to us – if WHO gets it decisions wrong it is accountable to no-one – and certainly not us. We need to have accountability and that means our Government must take responsibility for pandemics – not outsource decisions overseas.
Read Brian’s other three reasons here.