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What is the world signing up for with the WHO?

By Murray Hunter - posted Wednesday, 10 April 2024

The May 27 deadline for comments on the Pandemic Treaty and International Health Regulations (IHR) amendments is quickly coming up. The World Health Council (WHC) is scheduled to vote upon the amendments on May 28.

If and when the amendments are voted upon, and eventually become ratified by the WHC, the IHRs will become legally binding on member nations, rather than advisories as they are at present.

This will give the WHO the sole authority to declare whether public health risks and/or emergencies exist, anywhere within member states. The WHO will also have the power to specify the conditions of entry into a country, through the IHRs. This includes, screening, vaccinations, testing, and documentation. The WHO will be able to specify measures to prevent the spread of diseases including vaccines and other measures such as medical testing, isolation and quarantine.


The IHRs will allow WHO officials to supervise any specific ‘health’ related activities within member nations.

The Pandemic Treaty will allow the WHO to undertake any search it deems necessary for pathogens, and bring them into designated laboratories. The WHO will be able to shorten the timeframe for regulators authorising products for emergency use. Finally, the WHO will set up a global distribution network for specified pharmaceuticals.

If nations don’t formally object to the proposed IHRs and the Pandemic Treaty, existing IHRs, silence will be deemed as consent.

However, there are some issues standing in the way of ratifying the above agreements. Under the WHO guidelines, Article 55 requires 4 months of discussion on any proposed amendments before they can be voted upon. May 28, is before the end of this 4-month period. Secondly, reports indicate that various states are struggling to find a common ground.

The Director General of The WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Intergovernmental Negotiation Body (INB) in March that the Pandemic Treaty and IHR are “a generational opportunity to shape the future where pandemics are met with decisive action, and communities are protected”.

For those who wish to put trust in the WHO there are a number of issues to consider.


Criticism of the WHO during the Covid-19 pandemic

The WHO has come under heavy criticism during the Covid-19 pandemic. An independent panel argued the WHO was slow to declare the outbreak in China, an international pandemic a week earlier than it did. This late response prevented many governments taking immediate actions to protect the most vulnerable. The WHO was political in its stance of the origins of the virus, and silent on the economic issues and human rights questions, concerning harsh government responses to mandatory quarantine and isolation measures. Many of the WHO guidelines during the pandemic on matters of the method of disease transmission, treating the disease and vaccine guidelines have been found deficient.

The European Parliamentsaid this is just another example of the poor track record during pandemics, stating the WHO’s delayed response to the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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