Regardless of what they say, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is coming after national sovereignty.
Democracies and healthy societies are built on rationality and honesty. They may not always exhibit this, but these values must underpin major decisions. Without them, neither democracy nor justice is sustainable. In their absence, these foundations are replaced by a structure in which a few dictate to the many, and the excesses of feudalism, slavery or fascism rise to dominance. This is why so many fought so hard and for so long in defence of these ideals. People in democratic countries elect representatives to the privileged position of guardians of their freedom.
The WHO is promoting a pandemic treaty (currently in the form of a draft called ‘CA+’) and amendments to the existing International Health Regulations (IHR) to increase its power during health emergencies. These proposals also broaden the scope of emergencies to include potential rather than actual harm.
The draft treaty creates what it calls a ‘One Health’ approach – a nebulous concept describing a highly collectivised global mechanism overseen by the WHO. If the treaty comes to be, emergency decision-making power will be placed in the hands of a single person, the WHO Director General. Signatory countries will then be obliged to follow orders.
Together, the two proposals aim to expand an international bureaucracy for health emergencies with an additional annual budget estimated by the World Bank at three times the WHO’s current budget. This programme is heavily backed by WHO’s major individual and corporate sponsors. These are entities that will directly benefit from the proposed setup. However, it will mainly be funded by taxpayers.
This all represents a drastic departure from the principles of public health. The WHO was originally intended to serve countries, not instruct them. The proposals aim to reduce individual and national decision-making power, replacing this with obedience to the WHO. Of course, the organisation’s leadership denies this is the case. But this reflects a public messaging campaign that has little resemblance to the words in the proposed treaty. In WHO parlance, this denial amounts to misinformation.
Developing a drug cartel
Much of the WHO’s funding comes from private and corporate sponsors, who specify how their money will be used. Sponsor companies have a responsibly to their shareholders to use this relationship to increase profits. In turn, individuals are invested in companies who will gain from the WHO’s health emergency proposals. We saw this mechanism in action during Covid-19. The WHO’s sponsors can profit when the WHO takes control of potentially profitable aspects of health away from representative governments. Just imagine having the power to legally mandate entire nations use your product.
Before entrusting one’s heath to others, it is essential to know that they are competent. Despite having previous evidence-based guidelines for pandemics, the WHO lost the plot disastrously with COVID-19. It supported policies that have worsened such diseases as malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition, and increased debt and poverty to lock in poorer health for the next generation. These policies increased child labour and helped to force young girls into child marriage, whilst denying formal education to hundreds of millions of children. Sick, elderly people were unable to get care, and healthy people were needlessly confined at home. They have promoted the largest ever upwards concentration of wealth in history while contributing to mass impoverishment.
For the past two years, the WHO has embarked on a project to mass vaccinate 70% of African populations. This despite half the population being under 20 years of age, and therefore at minimal risk from Covid and despite the WHO’s own data showing the vast majority have already had COVID-19, which provides natural protection against reinfection. The proposed treaty seeks powers that will enable it to repeat these types of responses, based on their own declarations of emergencies.
Disdain for human rights
Countries adopting the proposed IHR amendments will accept WHO recommendations as obligatory. The list of potential demands covered in the IHR includes border closures and refusal of individual travel, isolation of “suspect” persons, mandated medical examinations and vaccination, exit screening and requirements of proof of testing. These are all on the table when the WHO unilaterally declares such interventions necessary because of a “risk” to other countries.
There are no clear criteria for establishing such a “risk”. The WHO Director General will not even have to consult and obtain wider consent.
A self-perpetuating funding black hole
The planned pandemic bureaucracy is likely to feature a snowball effect. Biennial assessments by the WHO will likely result in demands on individual nations to improve their pandemic readiness. That means more money. Intensive surveillance, meanwhile, will continually unearth new virus variants. Rather than allowing these variants to fade away, the WHO will sequence them, name them and create panic where none was justified. Cue the same sorts of ruinous measures we have seen in response to Covid. Mainstream media will surely oblige by selling scare stories.
Although the WHO recorded just one mild pandemic per generation for the past 100 years, this system makes the proclamation of frequent emergencies inevitable. Such ‘success’ will be essential justification to maintain funding.
What governments should do
The international community can benefit from coordination over public health. But that is not what CA+ proposes. This is a draconian measure aimed at taking away national sovereignty. It gives vast powers to a single organisation with troubling funding arrangements and a track record for causing terrible damage. Legislators should reject these proposals, refuse to send taxpayer money to the WHO and reject the notion of public health by dictate.
Dr. David Bell is a clinical and public health physician with a PhD in population health and background in internal medicine, modelling and epidemiology of infectious disease. Previously, he was Director of the Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in the USA, Programme Head for Malaria and Acute Febrile Disease at FIND in Geneva, and coordinating malaria diagnostics strategy with the World Health Organisation. He is a member of the Executive Committee of PANDA.
Dr. Thi Thuy Van Dinh (LLM, PhD) worked on international law in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Subsequently, she managed multilateral organisation partnerships for Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund and led environmental health technology development efforts for low-resource settings.