[Thi Thuy Van Dinh (LLM, PhD) contributed to this article. He has worked in international law at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Subsequently, he managed partnerships with multilateral organizations for Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund and led environmental health technology development initiatives for low-resource settings]
Healthy democracies and societies are based on rationalism and honesty. They may not always demonstrate it, but these values must underpin important decisions. Without them, neither democracy nor justice are sustainable. They are replaced by a structure in which the few dictate to the many, and the excesses of feudalism, slavery or fascism rise to dominance. That is why so many fought so hard, for so long, in defense of these ideals. The peoples of democratic countries then elect their representatives to occupy the privileged position of guardians of their freedom.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting a pandemic treaty (“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 suggests a definition of “One Health” to encompass any event in the biosphere that may affect human well-being. This decision-making power will be placed in the hands of a single person, the WHO Director-General. WHO will require countries signing these agreements to suppress and censor the voices of those who question the dictates of the Director-General.
The two proposals, detailed elsewhere, seek to expand an international bureaucracy for health emergencies with an additional annual budget estimated by the World Bank at three times the current WHO budget. This program has the strong support of WHO’s major individual and corporate sponsors, entities that will benefit directly through the proposed commodity-focused responses. However, it will be funded primarily by taxpayers.
This is a new model for WHO and for public health. WHO was originally conceived to serve countries, not instruct them. The proposals seek to reduce individual and national decision-making power, or sovereignty, replacing it with obedience to WHO recommendations. When the WHO Director-General recently suggested that the above was not true, he was not referring to the WHO proposals, but to another public messaging campaign. In WHO parlance, he was spreading misinformation.
Individual sovereignty and human rights were once fundamental to public health. These concepts are usually exercised through elected representatives and by preserving the inalienable rights of the individual in decisions about his or her own body. Anti-fascist agreements such as the Nuremberg Code are based on this understanding. These are compelling reasons to oppose the WHO proposals. But there are other compelling reasons why these proposals are ridiculous and dangerous.
Developing a drug cartel
Much of WHO’s funding comes from private and corporate sponsors, who specify how their money will be used. Corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders to use this relationship to increase their profits, while individuals invest directly in companies that will benefit from WHO’s health emergency proposals. We saw this during Covid-19.
The lack of interest of the mainstream media, which derive their main private advertising revenues from the same companies, should not be taken as a reason to ignore it. WHO sponsors intend to profit from WHO wresting control of potentially profitable aspects of health from representative governments, so that their products can be more widely and frequently mandated for use.
It is right and just that all countries should be represented in the World Health Assembly. However, much of the world’s population lives under authoritarian governments and military dictatorships. The current WHO Director-General was a minister of a dictatorial government. This is fine for an organization that convenes meetings and names diseases. But it is obviously inappropriate for a democratic country to cede authority over its own citizens to such an entity, and to international officials who are unaccountable and subject to conflicts of interest, influence and bias.
Public health responses should depend entirely on the values and priorities of the population, not on foreign dictators or their appointees. It would be absurd to cede control to those who espouse totally opposite values.
Before entrusting one’s own health to others, it is essential to know that they are competent. Despite having previous evidence-based guidelines for pandemics, WHO disastrously lost its way with Covid-19. It supported policies that have made the situation worse. It supported policies that have made the situation worse. It supported policies that have worsened diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition, and increased debt and poverty to lock in worse health for the next generation. These policies increased child labor and facilitated the rape of millions of girls forced into marriage, while denying formal education to hundreds of millions of children. The sick elderly could not be cared for, while the healthy were confined to their homes. They have promoted the greatest concentration of growing wealth, and its consequent mass impoverishment, in history.
For two years now, WHO has embarked on a project to massively vaccinate 70% of African populations, despite the fact that half of the population is under 20 years old, so the risk is minimal, and that WHO’s own study shows that the vast majority have already had Covid-19. This program is the most expensive, per year, ever promoted by WHO. It now seeks proxies that will allow them to repeat this type of response, often.
Disregard for human rights
Countries adopting the proposed amendments to the IHR will accept the WHO recommendations as binding. The list contemplated in the IHR includes border closures and denial of individual travel, isolation of “suspicious” persons, mandatory medical examinations and vaccination, exit controls and the requirement of screening tests. These measures will be imposed on a country’s own citizens when a person in this organization sponsored by large multinational corporations and wealthy investors independently decides that an undefined health “threat” poses a risk to other countries.
There are no clear “risk” criteria, nor any need to demonstrate harm, to impose this draconian suppression of basic human rights. The WHO Director-General will not even have to consult and obtain wider consent. There are other initiatives underway to ensure that the required vaccines will not have to undergo normal safety testing. There is no soul-searching about the devastation caused to people and economies by similar policies implemented during Covid-19. Rather, WHO and its partners claim greater urgency, using irrelevant outbreaks such as simian pox to justify their haste. This is community-driven health, and post-World War II human rights, turned upside down.
A self-perpetuating funding black hole
The WHO’s proposed system will put in place a global health bureaucracy very different from the one it has traditionally maintained. Every two years, the organization will evaluate the degree of preparedness of each country to respond to rare events and demand rectifications. Intensive surveillance will make it possible to find new variants of the virus, which are always evolving in nature. Rather than allowing these variants to fade undetected, this bureaucracy will sequence them, name them, decide they pose a threat, and institute the society- and economy-destroying measures they have perfected since 2020.
Although the WHO recorded only one mild “pandemic” per generation in the last 100 years, this system makes the proclamation of frequent emergencies inevitable. That “success” will be an essential justification for maintaining funding. The response will include lockouts and border closures, then mass testing and vaccinations “to escape these closures and save the economy.” The media will peddle breaking news, count infections and available hospital beds without providing any context; health departments will tout essential workers as heroes internationally, regionally and nationally. Covid-19 established this model.
In a country with a functioning constitutional democracy, such a perverse incentive-based system would not be allowed. But WHO does not operate under any national jurisdiction, nor is it directly accountable to any population. It does not have to bear the negative impacts of its dictates. It is prioritizing the needs of its sponsors and trying to impose them on others far away. It has no choice but to accept this funding and pay the salaries of its staff.
Be realistic about health
WHO is not the organization it was 40 years ago. Based on disease burden (what maims and kills people), the big killers of humanity, apart from old age, are non-communicable diseases (i.e. most cancers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other metabolic diseases), infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and the many ills resulting from child malnutrition. By comparison, pandemics have had a minimal cost to humanity in the last century. Uninhibited by these realities, WHO continues to consider Covid-19 (mean age of death >75 years) and even monkeypox (<100 deaths worldwide) to be international emergencies.
WHO’s funding arrangements, its track record and the perverse nature of its proposed pandemic response should be enough to make these proposed arrangements anathema in democratic states. If implemented, they should disqualify WHO from receiving public funding or providing health advice. The international community can benefit from coordination on health matters, but it would be unwise to entrust that function to an organization that clearly serves other interests.
Originally published in Brownstone InstituteSuggest a correction