Working treaty draft and next steps
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been pushing forward with preparations for an agreement to create a global health governance. Although it has been referred to as a “pandemic treaty,” it’s been openly discussed that the agreement should cover much more. A summary of “key messages” from organizations interested in such a governance stressed the new agreement “should be linked with the global response to noncommunicable diseases,” and even included a suggestion that the agreement should happen at the United Nations (WHO’s parent organization), “in recognition of the fact that a pandemic response was larger than the health sector.”[i]
Nowhere has this been described as an agreement that would only be in effect in case of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but it would instead set up standing surveillance methods in attempts to prevent another pandemic.
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), a group designed to create and present the proposed agreement to voting members of the WHO at the World Health Assembly in 2024, has been meeting and collecting input from Member States and private or organizational stakeholders since February 2021. On July 13, 2022, the WHO Secretariat released a working draft of the document for consideration at the next meeting of the INB on July 18-20, 2022.[ii]
As a working draft, the document is incomplete, with suggested language and objectives. It relies heavily upon input from Member States and other stakeholders who were invited to use an online portal to respond to pre-written suggested focus areas and language, as well as contribute their own open-ended suggestions for the agreement.
The agreement is shaping up to include “four cross-cutting strategic themes of equity, governance and leadership, systems and tools, and financing,” as well as “five subthemes: access; transfer of technology and know-how; coordination, collaboration and cooperation; multisectoral actions; and capacities and systems strengthening.”
Here are some highlights of the working draft:
- Governance mechanisms “could include” enabling “collaboration and cooperation across the United Nations system and other international and regional intergovernmental organizations and non-State actors and bodies as a means of strengthening the implementation” of the agreement.
- Universal health coverage is mentioned 11 times in the document, as a goal to combat and respond to pandemics.
- Data sharing across government and industries is a foundation of the governance plan and is being referred to as “transparency.”
- Another principle in the document is “solidarity,” explained as, “[i]ntensified international cooperation, based on a set of specific obligations for Parties (especially, but not limited to, obligations from developed to developing countries) is required to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from pandemics.”
- There will be international efforts to curtail free speech by addressing “infodemic management, public information and risk communication” especially through use of social media.
How is the WHO considering national sovereignty?
The definition of sovereignty is not limited to self-determination, but also includes “the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to other States and their peoples.” It is reasonable that the freedom of one country should not infringe upon another, but when it comes to a germ, can any state truly be sovereign under this definition?
The first public meeting of the INB was held April 12-13, 2022. There were 36,294 written comments submitted. The WHO Secretariat summarized that “[a] number of submissions referred to respect for national autonomy and sovereignty, noting that subnational and cultural bodies, and local health entities were better placed to make health decisions at the national level. Such a focus on sovereignty was justified by the differences in national health systems” (emphasis added). Let’s never forget that those working for the World Health Organization think sovereignty needs to be justified in order to be claimed.
The Secretariat admitted, “The majority of written contributions proposed that no international instrument should be established.”[iii]
There’s no opportunity for public input at the upcoming INB meeting. The next chance the public may have to comment is the end of September, 2022. [iv] We do not yet know what the stipulations will be for oral or written comment, but Stand for Health Freedom will alert our Advocates when it is time to make our voices heard.
What does this mean for Americans?
We must be vigilant to protect local authority. Once power is handed over, it is not given back. We can see evidence of this right now in the perpetual state of emergency declared by both our president and the secretary of Health and Human Services. The law was written to give authority to widen the reach of federal authority in a declared emergency, but there was no sunset on that power, nor any true guidance on what an emergency looks like, or when it ends.
Health advocates in the state of Georgia were able to remove World Health Organization International Classifications of Diseases-10 (ICD-10) definitions of illness being included in a recently passed state law. [v]They recognized the danger of linking state power over health care with a global definition — if the rights of a citizen in a state are linked to decisions made by a global body that is unaccountable to American voters, then the decisions made by that global body affect people in their communities, and people have no say in the matter once the link is made.
Steps you can take
Step One: We can learn from the Georgia example and watch our state bills for links to the World Health Organization. Get involved with your local health freedom groups. For a list of state actions by organizations already partnered with Stand for Health Freedom, click the button below. If your state does not yet have a group, help build the health freedom movement by finding or mobilizing local advocates and contacting SHF.
Step Two: Stay up to date with state, federal, and global events and happenings by joining SHF to receive health policy analysis and legislative alerts right to your inbox.
Step Three: Sign our petition to let the White House know Americans will not allow health sovereignty to be taken away by a global governance.
Step Four: Spread the word by sharing this post on social media, or with your friends and loved ones by clicking the links on the left!
References and sources
- [i] https://apps.who.int/gb/inb/pdf_files/inb1/A_INB1_10-en.pdf
- [ii] https://apps.who.int/gb/inb/pdf_files/inb2/A_INB2_3-en.pdf
- [iii] https://apps.who.int/gb/inb/pdf_files/inb1/A_INB1_10-en.pdf
- [iv] https://inb.who.int/home/public-hearings
- [v] https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/210977