| | | |

WHO Exhibiting Signs of ‘Desperation’ as New Zealand, Iran Reject Amendments to International Health Regulations

Originally published by : The Defender, Feb 13, 2024

New Zealand and up to three other countries have rejected controversial amendments, proposed in 2022 by the Biden administration to the World Health Organization’s 2005 International Health Regulations.

Editor’s note: After we published this article, Dutch attorney Meike Terhorst informed The Defender that the Netherlands made a “reservation” against the IHR 2022 amendments on Aug. 16, 2022. Terhorst added that the Netherlands never ratified the 2005 IHR, which is currently in effect.

New Zealand and up to three other countries have rejected controversial amendments, proposed in 2022 by the Biden administration to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR).

Critics warned the proposed amendments, approved last year by the 75th World Health Assembly(WHA), give the WHO too much power and increase the likelihood that future proposals — including the currently pending 2023 IHR amendments and the “WHO Pandemic Agreement,” or pandemic treaty — will also pass.

WHO member states had a Dec. 1, 2023, deadline to reject the 2022 amendments. New Zealand attorney Kirsten Murfitt told The Defender “New Zealand rejected the amendment which related to the reduced timeframe of future amendments.”

“In May 2022, the WHA voted to adopt the amendment to Article 59 of the IHR (and consequently other articles), which reduces the timeframe for future amendments to come into force from 24 to 12 months. Consequently, the period to reject or reserve future amendments was reduced from 18 months to 10 months,” Murfitt said.

For states that did not reject the amendments by Dec. 1, 2023, “the amendment comes into force in May 2024 by way of ‘tacit acceptance,’” Murfitt added.

Other experts told The Defender their rejection by up to four countries may be indicative of broader obstacles the WHO faces in ongoing negotiations for both proposals.

Independent journalist James Roguski said the WHO scheduled new negotiation meetings after falling behind on its own legally binding timeline due to member states’ disagreements over “equity”— as evidenced by developments at last week’s meeting of the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR).

Recent statements by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also suggest a growing unease with the progress of negotiations and the likelihood of reaching an agreement on the proposed 2023 IHR amendments and “pandemic agreement” by this year’s WHA, scheduled for May 27-June 1.

Others, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), warned during a Feb. 5 press conference that the proposed instruments pose a fundamental threat to national sovereignty, including that of the U.S.

New Zealand documents confirm country rejected 2022 IHR amendments

Documents obtained from the government of New Zealand via a freedom of information requestand shared with The Defender by Australian attorney Katie Ashby-Koppens confirm that, on Nov. 30, 2023, New Zealand formally notified the WHO that it rejected the 2022 IHR amendments.

A Nov. 30, 2023, email from Andrew Forsyth, manager of Public Health Strategy at New Zealand’s Public Health Agency, to the Office of the WHO’s Director-General, stated:

“This document notifies New Zealand’s rejection of the amendments to Article 59 of the Regulations, as adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2022.

“Following New Zealand’s General Election on 14 October 2023, this step is being taken to give the incoming Government the opportunity to consider the amendments. It may not be the Government’s final decision.

“Please be advised that New Zealand will remain a constructive participant in the current, substantive WGIHR negotiations.”

The agreement between the parties in New Zealand’s governing coalition stipulated that New Zealand would lodge a “reservation” against the 2022 IHR amendments.

Ashby-Koppens has worked with New Zealand’s Voices For Freedom in opposing the WHO’s proposals. She told The Defender “reservations” — a declaration by a state under international law that it reserves the right not to abide by certain provisions of a treaty — against new amendments, are not foreseen under the current IHR.

“New Zealand did the right thing and rejected the amendments in time,” she said.

A Nov. 29, 2023, letter from the Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations, also released as part of the same freedom of information request, notified the WHO director-general of “New Zealand’s rejection of the amendments.”

“New Zealand has rejected these so its new government can conduct its own assessments of the amendments,” Ashby-Koppens said, adding that in doing so, New Zealand became the third of four countries to reject the 2022 IHR amendments.

According to Door to Freedom, an advocacy group opposing the WHO’s proposed instruments, Iran also rejected the 2022 IHR amendments.

“Iran notes that they rejected the May 2022 amendments because they reduce the amount of time for reservation or rejection,” Door to Freedom wrote. Door to Freedom was founded last year by Dr. Meryl Nass, a member of the Children’s Health Defense scientific advisory committee.

During last week’s WGIHR meeting, the Russian delegation also confirmed that four countries rejected the 2022 IHR amendments, stating, “We’d like to point out the Director-General’s letter that four countries have not joined amendments adopted two years ago at the WHA,” according to Roguski.

The other two countries that rejected the amendments have not publicly been revealed.

Roguski said the 2022 amendments were not passed per the WHO’s procedures. He previously wrote that after a set of IHR amendments was rejected in 2022, a different package of amendments was “illegitimately submitted” with the support of the Biden administration. Five of those were passed.

“These are completely void and illegitimate,” Roguski said. “No one has said a word. The U.S. Senate did not say a single word about that.”

According to Door to Freedom, for countries that have rejected the 2022 IHR amendments, “future amendments to the IHR will not come into force until 24 months after approval (not 12 months), and these nations have 18 months (not 10 months) to reject or make a reservation against all future amendments.”

WHO showing ‘a sense of desperation’

The rejection of the 2022 IHR amendments by four countries appears to be just one of several obstacles plaguing the WHO’s ongoing efforts to enact its proposals.

Roguski said last week’s WGIHR meeting “did not conclude its agenda.” Instead, the meeting was “suspended” and “they agreed to schedule an additional two weeks of meetings of the WGIHR” between March 4-15, and a one-day joint session with the WHO’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) on Feb. 23.

According to the WHO, the INB was established in 2021 to “negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”

Roguski said that “A joint meeting of the INB-WGIHR was held in secret on Jan. 31.”

Separately, the INB is scheduled to meet between Feb. 19 and March 1 and again between March 18-29. The next formal WGIHR meeting is scheduled for April 22-26.

The WHO’s unease over the rate of progress in ongoing negotiations for the IHR amendments and “pandemic agreement” appears evident in several recent public statements Tedros made, imploring WHO member states to successfully conclude their negotiations in time for this year’s World Health Assembly.

In a Jan. 22 statement, Tedros said:

“Over the past two years, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body and the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR have been moving towards a common goal: to build a healthier, safer, and more equitable world.

“This is our chance — maybe our only chance — to get this done, because we have the momentum. …

“Member States have committed to the historic task of delivering a pandemic agreement and a package of amendments to improve the International Health Regulations to the World Health Assembly in May of this year.

“This is a generational opportunity that we must not miss.”

Tedros also warned, “If the international community misses this opportunity, it will be difficult to achieve the comprehensive reform we need, especially for equitable access to pandemic-related products.”

He also sharply criticized the “torrent of fake news, lies, and conspiracy theories” about the “pandemic agreement and IHR.”

Dr. Kat Lindley, president of the Global Health Project and director of the Global COVID Summit, told The Defender that Tedros “appears frustrated according to his tweets,” which she says may be a sign that “some talks are stalling.”

Such statements reflect remarks Tedros made at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum last month, where, after warning that the world must be prepared for a new pandemic that may be caused by a yet-unknown “Disease X,” he said:

“[The] deadline for the pandemic agreement is May 2024, and member states are negotiating. … This is between countries, and I hope they will deliver this pandemic agreement by that time on the deadline, because if this generation cannot do it … [the] incoming generation, the next generation won’t do it.”

“The WHO and Tedros are also uncomfortable about public perception, their messaging sounds desperate and they are sledging comments at the suggestions of mis- and dis-information,” Ashby-Koppens said. “All of the opening and public statements of WHO Working Group and INB meetings this year indicate a sense of desperation.”

Ashby-Koppens attributed this desperation to increased global mistrust of the WHO.

“Member states aren’t all falling into line with what the WHO is trying to achieve under both treaty documents … The WHO is promising future pandemics but isn’t reading the crowd and doesn’t seem to appreciate that all trust is gone in the organization,” she said.

WHO ‘can’t even be trusted to follow its own rules’

Experts who spoke with The Defender pointed to a lack of transparency during negotiations for the two proposed instruments as also jeopardizing efforts to finalize and approve the two proposed IHR amendments and pandemic treaty.

For instance, the latest 2023 IHR amendment documents have not been made public, according to Roguski.

“We understand that the IHR Working Group anticipates a final text being settled only during April or possibly even into May, but there remains no official deadline for it to publish that final text. It refuses to confirm what the documents say, and it refuses to say when it will reveal those documents,” Roguski said.

The most recent publicly available documents about the proposed 2023 IHR amendments are dated Feb. 6, 2023. Roguski said this prompted participants at last week’s WGIHR meeting to call for the public release of the most up-to-date documents.

According to Ashby-Koppens, “The WHO is failing to follow its own rules,” as many of the proposed amendments that are publicly known “are outside the WHO’s remit.”

She added that “By Jan. 27, 2024, the WHO was supposed to supply the 300+ amendments to its member states” — but has not done so. “The concern is that the WHO can’t even be trusted to follow its own rules now, so how can we trust it to follow the new powers our elected officials will be granting the WHO?” she asked.

Japan, in response, “propos[ed] to the bureau and the WGIHR to consider the publication of the Bureau’s text.” The Third World Network, recognized by the WHO as a “relevant stakeholder,” stated, “We request the Bureau to kindly publish the text proposals to the member states in the interest of transparency.”

According to Roguski, “nobody said a peep” at the WGIHR’s meeting about these requests, which he said may be “because they don’t have an agreement” in place.

Ashby-Koppens said the New Zealand government revealed, as part of its response to the freedom of information request, that it has in its possession a more recent draft of the 300-plus proposed 2023 IHR amendments but will not publicly release it.

“This raises the question of why our own country is not prepared to provide its citizens with the current version of the document that purports to be about our health and decisions over it,” she said.

Instead, according to Ashby-Koppens, the New Zealand government “made a bizarre request” last month, “asking for feedback from the public on versions of the treaties that will be different from the ultimate versions that New Zealand will vote on in May 2024.” The government set a Feb. 18 deadline for feedback.

‘Equity’ a euphemism for ‘finance’

Roguski said the key sticking point among WHO member states is “equity” — which will be the main topic of discussion during the newly scheduled March 4-15 meeting.

According to Roguski, Oxfam, another WHO “relevant stakeholder,” “hit a grand slam in demanding equity” at last week’s meeting, by “calling for an end to Big Pharma’s monopoly, the removal of intellectual property barriers and an end to the world’s double standard by calling for health to take precedence over commercial interests.”

“We urge you to quickly adopt concrete measures to ensure timely, equitable access to medical technologies in order to protect all populations,” Oxfam stated.

Countries and entities including Malaysia and the African Group also called for more “equity” during last week’s proceedings.

For instance, the African Group proposed a new Article 44A for the IHR — a “Financial Mechanism for Equity in Health Emergency Preparedness and Response.” The proposed article would create “A mechanism … for providing the financial resources on a grant or concessional basis to developing countries.”

Another “relevant stakeholder” — the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations — “rejected … calls for access to their ‘intellectual property,’” Roguski said.

He added that such disputes are, at their root, about money and funding — which would be distributed through the World Bank’s “Pandemic Fund.”

“Whether the ‘Pandemic Treaty’ or the amendments to the IHR are adopted or not, the massive investment of the Pharmaceutical Hospital Emergency Industrial Complex will continue,” Roguski recently wrote. “Crack the code: In finance, ‘equity’ is an ownership interest … The problem has always been, and probably always will be about money.”

Roguski said the “Pandemic Fund” provides funding to countries for the development of “early warning and disease surveillance systems” and “laboratory systems,” and for bolstering “human resources/public health and community workforce capacity.”

‘This is a trade dispute’

Opponents of the WHO’s proposed instruments say they threaten national sovereignty. Some proposals presented during last week’s WGIHR meeting called for the WHO’s director-general to be granted even greater authority.

For instance, The African Group proposed a new Article 13A for the IHR, stating:

“Immediately after the determination of a public health emergency of international concern under Article 12, the Director General shall make an immediate assessment of availability and affordability of required health products and make recommendations, including an allocation mechanism, to avoid any potential shortages of health products and technologies.”

Similarly, Bangladesh, in proposing a new Article 13A, called for a “WHO-led international public health response.”

According to Roguski, member states “understand that Tedros can declare a public health emergency of international concern anytime he wants,” but “wanted to add the authority for him to then determine what was needed.”

Reps. Smith and Wenstrup addressed the threat to national sovereignty during a Feb. 5 press conference. Smith referred to a “slew of significant issues surrounding the proposed treaty.”

These included “lack of transparency, the backroom negotiations, WHO overreach and infringement on U.S. sovereignty, unknown financial obligations for U.S. taxpayers, threats to intellectual property rights and free speech, funding for abortion, and how the treaty will benefit China at the expense of the United States.”

“Far too little scrutiny has been given, far too few questions asked as to what this legally binding agreement or treaty means to health policy in the United States and elsewhere,” Smith said.

Wenstrup said accused the WHO of wanting “to infringe upon our national sovereignty.”

Lindley said there have been initiatives by some states to protect against an encroachment of sovereignty by the WHO, including a bill introduced Feb. 5 in New Hampshire, HB1156, stating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO “shall have no jurisdiction in New Hampshire.”

“As written, the amendments to the IHR are in direct violation of our First Amendment, 5th and 10th amendment,” Lindley said.

But for Roguski, the main issue is trade and finances, not sovereignty.

“This is a trade dispute and it’s a play for money to build out the pharmaceutical hospital emergency industrial complex in the nations that they missed the first time,” he said. “They’re having trouble because they’re arguing over money and intellectual property.”

“Everybody’s been distracted by other aspects of what’s being negotiated, but from the very beginning, the whole purpose of this is the trade dispute,” he added.

“There is a clear and significant financial conflict of interest between the loyalties of WHO to the top private financial contributors and the rights and freedom of citizens around the world,” Murfitt said, noting that a significant portion of the WHO’s funding comes from private partners, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

‘Pressure from people works and we should continue it’

Lindley said that “pressure from people works and we should continue it,” noting that opposition to the IHR amendments and “pandemic agreement” is “creating an awareness and chatter — two things the WHO director-general seems to hate.”

Murfitt said “cracks are forming as the WHO pushes the misinformation and conspiracy theory narrative as concerned citizens, lawyers and politicians have started speaking out,” while Ashby-Koppens said financial interests may derail the WHO’s proposals.

“The pandemic treaty is at a real risk of getting upended … because of the concerns raised by Big Pharma through the U.S. government: They don’t want to give up their intellectual property or profit share, which they may have to with sharing their products with poorer nations,” Ashby-Koppens said.

“It’s crazy to think that the freedom groups are aligned with Big Pharma on the pandemic treaty being axed,” she added. “The WHO is losing its mantle of a trusted organization. People are weary and certainly feel that something is off.”

“We are winning the populist campaign against the WHO,” Lindsey said, but “have much more work to do.”

“A majority vote to the proposed amendment to the IHR is required and a 75% vote for the pandemic agreement,” Murfitt said.

“That’s a lot and I don’t believe we are there yet,” Lindley said.

“Many of us feel that the proposed amendments to the IHR will be passed and then we have to put political pressure on to opt out of the regime,” Murfitt said. “With the current publicly available draft, there does not appear to be a mechanism to opt out after the close-off date.”

Suggest a correction

Similar Posts