International organisations that facilitate an exchange of ideas and data are a global good. However, when these organisations begin to dictate what citizens within a country can and cannot do, they have become something quite different. No self-respecting totalitarian dictatorship would ever allow such interference with its own rule, whilst no rational democracy would countenance outsourcing its governance to others. Enthusiasm for such an institution could only come from national leaders who are working for other interests or capable of being coerced.
North Korea (or the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Korea), a dictatorship run by four generations of the Kim family and known for concentration camps and a habit of executing senior officials, has just commenced a three-year term on the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Nations from different regions of WHO take their turn, and it’s North Korea’s turn on behalf of the Southeast Asia Region. WHO does not pretend to be a bastion of democracy and human rights; the Director-General of WHO was a former minister in a dictatorial government that is accused of human rights abuses. Saudi Arabia’s co-chair of WHO’s Working Group on the International Health Regulations (WGIHR) recently stated that greater restrictions on human rights are appropriate when WHO thinks it necessary. So North Korea holding such influence is not something unusual. As WHO represents all of its 194 Member States, each country should have a turn helping to run things, just as large countries like China and India should have a commensurate influence on its decisions.
The critical point is that, as democracies, we should treat recommendations arising from such a body in this light, and ignore them unless they are fully in line with our own interests.
Over the next two years, relationships with WHO will change. Assuming the proposed reforms to pandemic agreements go through, states will have “undertaken” to follow all future recommendations (Article 1, new art. 13A) from the Director-General regarding the management of health emergencies, whenever he or she decides that something within the biosphere might pose a threat. A massive surveillance programme, costing more than three times the WHO’s current annual budget, will ensure such threats are found – whether they are really there or, more likely, not. States will need to have actively rejected proposed amendments to WHO’s International Health Regulations or the Director-General’s dictates will have legal force under international law. Alternatively they can leave the WHO altogether. As this takes over a year, such action would have to start soon.
In two years’ time, when the IHR amendments come into force, this organisation directed by a combination of dictatorial regimes, Western bureaucrats and corporate and private sponsors will be telling we-the-people whether we can work, see our families or travel. It will tell us when we must be confined, examined, tested and injected (Article 18). States will have “undertaken” to follow a long list of other directives that the Director-General will dictate and to suppress our disagreement should we complain (amendment to Article 33).
Who gains from this?
We can at least rest assured that the Kim family ruling North Korea has no intention of being told how its people should be managed, next time a bunch of Swiss-based careerists conjure up an existential threat to their well-being. They, we can presume, realise that people paid to find threats will find them, and they can read, so they know that actual ‘pandemics’ are rare and have low impact. But they do have an obvious interest in Western societies buying into this and watching us go down the drain.
The pandemic agenda is not a problem for countries such as North Korea or China, where people’s freedom is already at the will of their Government. But it is anathema for countries where government supposedly exists on the will of the people. So why do our leaders go along with this? Klaus Schwab, the Chair of the World Economic Forum, boasts it is because his organisation has “penetrated” our cabinets. Many current and recent Western leaders, after all, are alumni of his school for compliance, the Young Global Leaders Forum. The benefits his members gained from the Covid response seem to have validated his corporate-authoritarian model. Whatever the source of the authoritarian groupthink gripping the current crop of global elites, toeing the line is plainly well-rewarded.
Do enough people care enough to stop it? Maintaining one’s rights takes effort and an element of risk, including risk for family and friends, as many in North Korea know well. Ignorance, compliance and subservience are easier, at least for a while. Bodily autonomy is a handy catch cry to defy the ‘Right-wing’ and religious, but inconvenient when it impedes the agenda of billionaire ‘progressives’. The ‘greater good’ is always there to excuse any necessary trampling of rights.
Alternatively, we could decide to take charge of our own lives, our own healthcare and our own countries. We could decide that the former wisdom of public health – that community-based decision making is vital and responses should always be tailored to local need – still makes sense.
In the end, it is immaterial whether North Korea is on the WHO Executive Board. If WHO was simply there to be called on when needed, and its advice was of the take-it-or-leave-it kind, then all countries should have their turn. If we now decide WHO should dictate how we manage basic challenges in our lives then we will just have to face what comes from that. Compared to the forces within our own institutions that we are allowing to subvert our democracies through this perpetual emergency agenda, a small East Asian dictatorship taking its turn in an organisation it intends to ignore is barely relevant.
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 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.