Amidst mounting criticism over the World Health Organization’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, new powers being considered by the UN agency have sparked fears that they could potentially subject countries like Britain, the US, and Australia to lockdown measures dictated by the WHO.
The organization is currently reviewing 300 amendments to its legally-binding rulebook, with one particular measure drawing concern. Critics warn that this proposal could allow member states to be compelled to comply with any advice issued by the WHO during future pandemics, including the enforcement of vaccine passports and border closures.
One particular measure, which has drawn significant attention from MPs and campaigners, is seen as opening the door for member states to be compelled to follow any advice issued by the WHO during future pandemics.
The wording of the amendment: “Parties recognize WHO as the guidance and coordinating authority of international public health response during public health Emergency of International Concern and undertake to follow WHO’s recommendations in their international public health response.”
This could include enforcing measures such as vaccine passports and border closures, effectively granting the WHO the ability to dictate public health policies to member countries. Critics have described this proposal as an “unprecedented land grab” by the WHO, raising concerns about the erosion of national sovereignty and the potential for excessive control over policy and budgets.
The proposed amendments also stipulate that member states must allocate 5% of their health budgets for pandemic preparedness, if approved. This requirement has added to the concerns raised by politicians and activists who fear that the WHO’s expanded powers could result in significant financial burdens for member countries.
In response to these growing concerns, six Tory MPs have written to the Foreign Office, urging it to block any new powers that could grant the WHO authority over policy and budgets in the UK. Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey warned that these powers would transform the WHO from a “member-led advisory body to a health authority with powers of compulsion,” emphasizing the need to protect national sovereignty.
“The plans represent a significant shift for the organisation, from a member-led advisory body to a health authority with powers of compulsion,” McVey said. “This is particularly worrying when you consider the WHO’s poor track record on providing consistent, clear and scientifically sound advice for managing international disease outbreaks.”
The WHO recently made a call for sovereign nations to relinquish some of their governance authority to a global body in order to combat various challenges, including health emergencies, climate change, and social and economic inequalities.
The appeal comes shortly after House Republicans criticized President Joe Biden for negotiating America’s pandemic authority without congressional input. Republican lawmakers expressed their concerns about the Biden administration’s negotiations with the WHO, arguing that it would grant excessive power to the organization, which they believe failed to effectively respond to the pandemic.
In response, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a report, suggesting that individual countries lack the necessary global framework to tackle various emergencies that may affect the world.
Tedros emphasized that the WHO’s mandate should extend beyond pandemics to encompass issues such as hunger, poverty, ecological degradation, climate change, and social and economic inequalities.
According to Tedros, member nations must establish a global architecture for health emergency preparedness, prevention, response, and resilience, which includes global governance, financing, and health emergency systems.
However, Republicans have voiced their opposition to the WHO’s proposal, stating that international law should not supersede the United States’ Constitution. They have thus introduced legislation to sever ties with the WHO, including the WHO Withdrawal Act which would end U.S. membership in the WHO. The No Taxpayer Funding for the World Health Organization Act would also end American taxpayers’ financial contributions to the WHO.
The Biden administration has been sued over public health rules they argue illegally gives power to the World Health Organization.
"*" indicates required fields
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.