International Health Regulations Amendments Will Give WHO Unprecedented Power to Override National Sovereignty

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Originally published on by Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.

Experts told The Defender the proposed amendments to the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations would give the agency unprecedented power over national governments and override national sovereignty.

Two World Health Organization (WHO) committees recently convened to discuss proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) and the "zero draft" of a new global "pandemic treaty."

Media have focused primarily on the pandemic treaty, with the Biden administration recently reaffirming its commitment to finalizing it, and with The Associated Press (AP) reporting the treaty would not threaten national sovereignty.

However, some experts warn the public should be more concerned about the proposed IHR amendments -- which are more likely to be adopted -- as they would give the WHO unprecedented power over national governments and override national sovereignty.

Experts also say there are clear differences between the proposed IHR amendments and the pandemic treaty, even though the two are often conflated in public discourse.

Previous versions of the IHR have been in place since 1969. The current version was first enacted in 2005, in the aftermath of SARS-CoV-1.

IHR amendments a 'clear and present danger'

According to author and researcher James Roguski, "It seems nearly everyone is having difficulty maintaining clarity between the proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations and the proposed 'Pandemic Treaty.'"

Roguski, who has extensively researched both proposals, recently wrote on his blog that the "Zero Draft" of the Pandemic Treaty "is a real thing" but is also "a skillfully crafted decoy" designed to draw attention away from the proposed IHR amendments.

He called these amendments -- which the WHO's Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) discussed on Feb. 20-24 -- "a clear and present danger."

According to Reclaim the Net, the WHO, through the proposed IHR amendments, is "pushing to greatly expand its surveillance powers," including requiring states to build "collaborative surveillance networks."

"The unelected health agency also wants increased influence over the targeting of 'misinformation' and 'disinformation'" via the proposed amendments.

According to the Brownstone Institute, the proposed amendments would "expand the definitions of pandemics [and] health emergencies, including the introduction of 'potential' for harm rather than actual harm" and would change the recommendations of the IHR for states "from 'non-binding' to mandatory."

The WHO's director general would be empowered to "independently declare emergencies, and would grant the WHO "control over certain country resources."

A total of 307 IHR amendments have been proposed. On his blog, Roguski compiled a list of the top 10 reasons to oppose the amendments. These include:

  • Changing the WHO "from an advisory organization … to a governing body whose proclamations would be legally binding." (Articles 1 and 42)
  • Removing language preserving "respect for dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of people." (Article 3)
  • Giving the WHO "authority to require medical examinations, proof of prophylaxis, proof of vaccine and to implement contact tracing, quarantine and treatment." (Article 18)
  • Instituting "a system of global health certificates in digital or paper format." (multiple articles and annexes)
  • Empowering the WHO's Emergency Committee "to override decisions made by sovereign nations regarding health measures." (Article 43)

'They really want the global digital health certificate'

In an interview with The Defender, Roguski noted the strong push for global health certificates in the proposals that have been submitted for the IHR amendments.

Roguski said the proposed IHR amendments indicate the "'powers that be' are actively seeking to 'normalize' the implementation of a global digital health certificate."

"They really want the global digital health certificate," Roguski said. "Primarily, that's coming from the European Union."

The Czech Republic, on behalf of the EU, proposed in Article 23, regarding "health measures on arrival and departure," called for Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) "containing information concerning traveller's destination," preferably in digital form, "for the purpose of contact tracing."

They also proposed that the WHO's Health Assembly "may adopt, in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] … and other relevant organisations, the requirements that documents in digital or paper form shall fulfill with regard to interoperability of information technology platforms, technical requirements of health documents, as well as safeguards to reduce the risk of abuse and falsification."

The WHO lists ICAO as an officially recognized "stakeholder."

In reference to Article 36, concerning "certificates of vaccination or other prophylaxis," the Czech Republic and the EU proposed documentation not just for vaccination, but "test certificates and recovery certificates" in cases "where a vaccine or prophylaxis has not yet been made available for a disease in respect of which a public health emergency of international concern [PHEIC] has been declared."

A PHEIC is the official name for a global pandemic declaration by the WHO. The IHR (2005) defines it as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response."

The Russian Federation, in Article 23, proposed documents containing "information concerning the traveller's itinerary to ascertain if there was any travel in or near an affected area or other possible contacts with infection or contamination prior to arrival, as well as review of the traveller's health documents if they are required under these Regulations."

According to Russia's proposal, this includes "documents containing information for a lab test in digital or physical format, including documents containing information on a laboratory test for a pathogen and/or information on vaccination against a disease, including those provided at the request of the State Party in digital/electronic form."

Uruguay, on behalf of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, proposed, "mechanisms to develop and apply a traveller's health declaration in international public health emergency of international concern … to provide better information about travel itinerary, possible symptoms that could be manifested or any prevention measures that have been complied with."

And Indonesia, regarding Article 31 concerning "health measures relating to entry of travellers," proposed regulations that would not preclude states "from requiring medical examination, vaccination or other prophylaxis or proof of vaccination or other prophylaxis … when necessary to determine whether a public health risk exists" and as a condition of entry for travelers.

In November 2022, during the G20 meeting, Indonesian Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin pushed for an international "digital health certificate acknowledged by the WHO" to enable the public to "move around."

According to Roguski, other "really bad amendments" that have been proposed include:

  • Surrendering sovereignty to the WHO, proposed by the U.S., Bangladesh, Malaysia and The Nations of the African Region.
  • Giving the WHO control over "the means of production for the Pharmaceutical Hospital Emergency Industrial Complex," proposed by Bangladesh, Malaysia and The Nations of the African Region.
  • Empowering the director-general and regional directors of the WHO "to declare Intermediate Health Alerts, Public Health Emergencies of Regional Concern … and Public Health Emergencies of International Concern on their sole authority if they determine that events merely have the "potential" to cause an actual emergency. This has been proposed by the U.S., EU, India, New Zealand and Switzerland.
  • Authorizing the WHO "to interfere in the crafting of legislation within sovereign nations," proposed by Bangladesh.
  • Authorizing the WHO "to censor information," proposed by India and the Russian Federation.

Dr. Meryl Nass, a member of the Children's Health Defense scientific advisory committee, wrote that the proposed IHR amendments would allow "data-free declarations and renewals" of PHEICs.

Referring to the WHO's Feb. 9 renewal of the PHEIC for monkeypox, Nass said, "This is a great example of how we will be subject to the whim of the WHO Director-General under the IHRs if the proposed Accord [pandemic treaty] or IHR amendments pass."

On Jan. 27, the WHO decided to maintain its PHEIC declaration for COVID-19.

U.S. reaffirms commitment to 'pandemic treaty' -- but is this a red herring?

Following the week-long meeting of the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (2005), the International Negotiating Body for a WHO Instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (INB4) convened from Feb. 27 to March 3, to continue negotiations on the adoption of a pandemic treaty.

According to Reclaim the Net, the "international pandemic treaty will impose legally binding conditions on its 194 member states … if finalized."

According to the report:

"Article 18 instructs WHO member states to 'strengthen multisectoral, coordinated, interoperable and integrated One Health surveillance systems.' One Health is a system that the WHO has been striving to expand since the COVID pandemic. It uses links between 'the health of people, animals and ecosystems' to 'create new surveillance and disease control methods.'

"Article 11 directs member states to bolster their surveillance functions for 'outbreak investigation and control through interoperable early warning and alert systems.'"

The "zero draft" defines a "pandemic" as:

"The global spread of a pathogen or variant that infects human populations with limited or no immunity through sustained and high transmissibility from person to person, overwhelming health systems with severe morbidity and high mortality, and causing social and economic disruptions, all of which require effective national and global collaboration and coordination for its control."

The treaty would call on member states to "accelerate the process of approving and licensing pandemic-related products for emergency use in a timely manner" and to share resources and funding during pandemics.

According to a Feb. 27 statement released by the U.S. State Department and lead U.S. negotiator for the pandemic treaty, Pamela Hamamoto -- previously an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch -- the U.S. remains committed to achieving a "Pandemic Accord":

"The United States is committed to the Pandemic Accord, to form a major component of the global health architecture for generations to come. Shared commitment, shared aspirations and shared responsibilities will vastly improve our system for preventing, preparing for, and responding to future pandemic emergencies.

"We seek a Pandemic Accord that builds capacities; reduces pandemic threats posed by zoonotic diseases; enables rapid and more equitable responses; and establishes sustainable financing, governance, and accountability to ultimately break the cycle of panic and neglect.

"Finally, the Pandemic Accord must stand the test of time while building on the lessons from previous pandemics. By creating solutions that are flexible and adaptable, by laying out commitments that are clear regarding triggers and responsibilities, and by strengthening coordination and capacities, together we can build a stronger global health architecture for all."

The AP recently "fact-checked" claims that the pandemic treaty endangers national sovereignty. According to the AP, it "does not overrule any nation's ability to pass individual pandemic-related policies" and "does not overrule any nations' individual health or domestic policies."

There would be "effectively no legal consequences for signatories who fail to adhere to it or violate its terms."

The AP "fact-check" doesn't mention the proposed IHR amendments.

Roguski cited this as an example of the frequent conflation of the pandemic treaty and the IHR amendments. He said language eroding national sovereignty is not found in the pandemic treaty -- but is found in the IHR amendments.

"Everyone's paying attention to the treaty," Roguski said. "They're completely and totally cross-pollinating the details that are in the amendments, attributing them to the treaty, and getting 'fact-checked' to high heaven."

Negotiations will likely be held in secret 

Roguski told The Defender he followed the WHO proceedings of the last two weeks, saying "what happened was mostly a big pile of nothing" -- although for each of the two sets of meetings, only 4 of 10 sessions were webcast.

"There was some wording in there somewhere that left the impression that they have shifted from just collecting proposals to actually now negotiating," Roguski said. "I wish I could tell you with 100% certainty that such a decision was made, but they're really cagey about it."

"If they actually do go into official negotiations, it'll be secret," Roguski said. There appeared to be disagreements simmering beneath the surface at the recent meetings, he added.

For instance, during session four of the pandemic treaty discussions last week, Precious Matsoso, LLM, director general of South Africa's National Department of Health and co-chair of the meeting, said:

"We are dealing with extraordinary circumstances. And the extraordinary circumstances are going to require us to do extraordinary things.

"I would really appeal to all of you that we must work collaboratively, and I'd also like to encourage you to not wait for this formal seating. Try as best as possible to invite each other for coffee and iron out these wrinkles and clear the air, so that when we meet again, we have smoothed out some of the difficult areas."

According to Roguski, this may be because nations that are party to the negotiations for both the IHR amendments and the pandemic treaty "want what they want and that's what they want," indicating a potential unwillingness to reach compromises.

This was also hinted in the U.S. State Department's Feb. 27 statement:

"There is a lot to build on in this draft related to these priorities. However, the draft is unbalanced toward response at the expense of prevention and preparedness.

"While we need to avoid duplicating substantive elements contained in the IHR, such as surveillance and alerts, we need to discuss how best to address pandemic prevention and preparedness here. These efforts should be mutually supportive and complementary."

According to Roguski, some IHR amendments were adopted on May 27, 2022, at the 75th World Health Assembly, but received little attention.

"It's worth reporting that amendments were adopted last year and nobody's paid attention to the fact that nobody signed anything," he said.

'Greatest global coup in world history'

Roguski described the negotiators for the IHR amendments and the pandemic treaty as "unelected, unaccountable and largely unknown bureaucrats," and said "it has proven to be quite difficult to identify who represents the various member nations at the meetings held by the WHO."

He said these bureaucrats "are conspiring to hand over their nations' sovereignty to the World Health Organization in the greatest global coup in world history."

Roguski told The Defender that while it is publicly known that Hamamoto is the lead U.S. negotiator for the pandemic treaty, it was more difficult to identify the U.S. negotiators for the IHR amendments. He ultimately identified them as Mara Burr, JD, LLM and Colin McIff.

Burr is director, multilateral relations, of the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Global Affairs, and formerly worked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

McIff is deputy director of the HHS' Office of Global Affairs.

"These people should be called to task to explain where's the public comment period, which is mandatory in the Foreign Affairs Manual of the United States," Roguski said.

Francis Boyle, J.D., Ph.D., professor of international law at the University of Illinois, author of several international law textbooks and a bioweapons expert who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, told The Defender that the IHR amendments or pandemic treaty, once finalized, would bypass the U.S. Congress.

Describing the situation as "serious," Boyle said:

"It was a Joint Resolution by the U.S. Congress that enabled the United States to become a member of the WHO and a party to the WHO Constitution. In articles 19 and 21 of the WHO Constitution, the World Health Assembly has already been given the authority to adopt and approve treaties and regulations.

"In the Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act of 2022, the U.S. Congress, then under the control of the Democrats and President Biden, has already paved the way for either the amendments, or the treaty, or both, to be enacted into U.S. domestic law immediately upon mere signature by Biden's representative to the World Health Assembly, which next meets in May 2023."

"The only alternative" Americans have to prevent the IHR amendments or the pandemic treaty from becoming domestic law, Boyle said, "is to pull out of the WHO immediately and terminate all funding for the WHO immediately."

The INB will hold its fifth meeting between April 3-6, while the WGIHR will hold its third meeting April 17-21. The 76th WHO World Health Assembly, where the IHR amendments or pandemic treaty could be adopted, will take place May 21-30.

However, final decisions may not be made until 2024, as further meetings of both the IHR amendment and pandemic treaty working groups are scheduled up to spring 2024 and the 77th World Health Assembly in May of that year.

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