Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a deeply troubling position on abortions. In a long and thoughtful article on an issue that is as emotionally fraught as it is intellectually and morally challenging, Dr. David Bell explains how the organization’s abortion care guidance published in March 2022 calls for babies to “be killed up until the moment they emerge from the birth canal, without delay, whenever a pregnant woman requests it.” Thus Recommendation 2(LP) says that abortion should be available on request and 3(LP) advises against “laws and other regulations that prohibit abortion based on gestational age limits” (p. xxv).
Whatever possessed the WHO to set itself up as the arbiter of the moral compass of all the peoples and countries of the world? Under no conceivable circumstance is this a decision to be arrived at by an international bureaucracy. Only the governments concerned have the right and the responsibility to make decisions on policy parameters between the competing demands and value preferences of pro-choice and pro-life advocates. This is not just a bureaucratic but also a moral overreach.
The WHO has also been captured by the woke activists, as can be seen in the following sentence from the executive summary:
In this guideline, we recognize that most of the available evidence on abortion can be assumed to be derived from research among study populations of cisgender women, and we also recognize that cisgender women, transgender men, nonbinary, gender-fluid and intersex individuals with a female reproductive system and capable of becoming pregnant may require abortion care (p. 4).
How can any organization that spouts such anti-empirical rubbish as “women, girls or other pregnant persons” be accepted as an authority on science, biology, medicine or public health? A search of the document reveals that the phrase “pregnant person” occurs 65 times, including Recommendation 2(LP) mentioned above. The WHO has become just another vehicle for global cultural imperialism of the US woke agenda.
On top of this, the WHO has determined that alcohol is dangerous for your health, regardless of how little or how rarely you imbibe. And if you believe you drink responsibly, you are just an alcohol industry’s useful idiot. The WHO tells us that alcohol accounts for 5.1 percent of the world’s disease burden and “contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally.” On 4 January, a WHO news release insisted that “no level of alcohol consumption is safe for health.” Over the last three years we have been conditioned to accept that safety through public health trumps all other values and considerations, including such quaint old-fashioned notions as liberty, free choice and individual responsibility for one’s health and lifestyle choices.
On 15 April, in the latest iteration of its role as the world’s nanny, the WHO published Reporting about Alcohol: A Guide for Journalists in which it effectively attacked the notion of “responsible drinking” as disinformation. This “vague notion,” the WHO says, is “a marketing tool and a tactic to influence public beliefs about the alcohol industry.” It neither tells us when to stop nor acknowledges the option of abstinence.
Furthermore, the phrase responsible drinking allegedly “ignores the inherent risks in consuming alcohol, mischaracterizing its harms as the result of a small minority of individual drinkers who cannot control their intake,” and stigmatizes those who cannot hold their drink. “It puts the entirety of the blame for alcohol problems on individual drinkers rather than more prominent environmental factors such as advertising, pricing or availability.”
Thus three key elements of the successful weaponization of Covid for ensuring compliance with voodoo science diktats from the WHO are being replicated to socially engineer human behaviour on drinking, behaviour that is as old as human civilization: scaremongering, shaming, and controlling the media narrative around it.
The Challenge of Global Governance
Covid-19 illustrates how the source and scope of many critical problems are global and require multilateral solutions, but the policy authority and requisite resources for tackling them are vested in states. An efficient architecture of global health governance would have detected the emerging epidemiological threat early, sounded the alarm and coordinated the delivery of essential equipment and medicines to population clusters in most need. The WHO is at the centre of the existing architecture. It works worldwide to promote universal health care, monitor public health risks, prepare for emerging epidemiological emergencies and coordinate responses. It sets international health standards and guidelines and provides technical assistance to countries in need. It is credited with eradicating smallpox and coordinating the response to SARS. Yet, its Covid performance was underwhelming. Its credibility was badly damaged by tardiness in raising the alarm; by shabby treatment of Taiwan to avoid upsetting China despite the potential lessons to be learnt from Taiwan’s early measures to check Covid; by the initial investigation that whitewashed the origins of the virus; and by flip-flops on masks, lockdowns and vaccines. Dented credibility is not regained by appointing Sir Jeremy Farrar, a leading British advocate who also helped to coordinate efforts to shut down investigations into Covid’s origins in leaks from the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a conspiracy theory, as the WHO chief scientist. To the contrary, it is evidence of the brazen contempt for the peoples of the world, the opening words of the United Nations Charter notwithstanding. For problems without passports, in Kofi Annan’s evocative phrase, we need solutions without passports. Instead, international and domestic border closures, wholesale quarantine of healthy populations and mandatory vaccine requirements insinuated passport requirements into quotidian activities. Insisting on universal vaccination, rather than targeting those at most risk and ignoring healthy children and young people at negligible risk, meant that many who needed them urgently got them late and also that massive amounts of public money were wasted.
Health includes mental health and wellbeing and is highly dependent on a robust economy, yet the WHO-backed package of measures to fight Covid damaged health, children’s immunization programs in developing countries, mental health, food security, economies, poverty reduction, and educational and social wellbeing of peoples. UNICEF published The State of the World’s Children 2023 report last month with the alarming conclusion that in the last three years, lockdown-induced disruptions to healthcare had resulted in a total of 67 million fewer childhood immunizations. This means that “in just three years, the world has lost more than a decade of progress.”
Their worst effect was grievous assaults on human rights, civil liberties, individual autonomy and bodily integrity. In promoting these policies the WHO violated, without providing any justification beyond China’s example, (1) the guidance from its own report in September 2019 that summarized a century’s worth of worldwide experience and science; and (2) its own constitution which defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The vaccine push similarly ignored accumulating safety signals about the scale of adverse reactions, on the one hand, and rapidly dwindling effectiveness after successive doses, on the other. “Our New Overlords”?
Whisper it softly for fear of being cancelled, but does the WHO understand the difference between enjoying life and existing on life-support? Going by its woeful record on Covid, the answer is: No, it does not.
Yet, this is the body that wants to expand and entrench its powers to dictate our lives. What’s more and contrary to what most Westerners believe with respect to the UN system, the push for the WHO as a nanny suprastate legally empowered to override national decisions on health measures is being led by Western governments and philanthropic foundations that have captured the organization, including one Bill Gates. In fact, had it not been for a revolt led by African governments, the push would already have succeeded last year. Euro-US efforts to amend legally binding international health regulations and adopt a new pandemic accord (that is, treaty) on “pandemic prevention, preparedness and response” would confer extraordinary powers on the WHO, acting through the director-general and the six regional directors (for Africa, the Americas, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific), to declare public health emergencies of international/regional concern and instruct governments to implement their recommendations. WHO inspectors would have the right to enter countries without consent and check compliance with their directives. They would lock in the lockdowns-vaccines narrative and preempt rigorous independent retrospective reviews of their costs and efficacy.
The “reforms” amount to a WHO power grab that would serve the interests of Big Pharma and Big Donors. Whether approved as two separate instruments or folded into one overarching new treaty, if and when approved the changed architecture will greatly strengthen the WHO’s core capabilities on public health surveillance, monitoring, reporting, notification, verification and response.
The rush to amend the existing international health regulations encountered significant pushback from developing countries, China and Russia at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s 196 member governing body, in May last year. However, it will come up again for discussion and approval at the World Health Assembly next year. A new treaty would require approval by two-thirds of the WHA member states (that is, 131 countries) and be subject to their national ratification process. But the international health regulations can be amended by just 50 percent of member states (98 countries).
Remarkably, there’s been virtually no public debate on the ramifications of such far-reaching encroachments on national autonomy, state sovereignty and human rights. An open letter to the two houses of the UK Parliament from the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) on 9 December was a welcome effort to educate parliamentarians. Rather surprisingly for such a radical recalibration of the relationship between sovereign governments and an international bureaucracy, parliamentarians and ministers have so far shown a singular lack of interest in learning just what their governments are signing up to.
To take just one example, the amendments propose that the present reference to “full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons” in Article 3 of the International Health Regulations (IHR) should be replaced by “equity, coherence, inclusivity”. This would throw out the standard vocabulary of the international human rights movement as embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the faddish catchphrase of the current woke agenda.
Well capacitated, technically proficient and democratically legitimate states should be chary of ceding control of the policy agenda, decision making authority, and resource mobilization and enforcement powers to inefficient, cumbersome and unaccountable international bureaucracies. Many governments argue that other issues like climate change, gun violence and racism also constitute public health emergencies which would expand the WHO’s remit even more. Sure enough, on 2 May The Guardian reported that the next UN climate summit in November in Dubai will, for the first time ever, discuss health issues in depth.
Pandemics are rare events. The WHO listed only four in the 120 years before Covid-19: the Spanish flu 1918–19, Asian flu 1957–58, Hong Kong flu 1968–69 and swine flu 2009–10. They impose a low disease burden compared to the endemic infectious and chronic diseases. Heart diseases, cancers, strokes, lung diseases and influenza and pneumonia are the world’s big killer diseases. Moreover, as is well known and unlike the earlier pandemics, about three-quarters of the 6.9 million Covid deaths were in people with comorbidities at or above average life expectancy. Florida and Sweden resisted the lockdown groupthink and have come out markedly better on the balance of benefits versus harms. This is why the requirement for every country to dedicate a minimum of 5 percent of its health budget to pandemic preparedness (Article 19.1c of the draft new treaty) doesn’t make much sense.
The terminological change in the IHR (the draft new treaty sticks to “pandemics”) from a pandemic to a “public health emergency of international concern” would make it easier for the WHO to assume extraordinary powers for health crises short of pandemics. The new regulatory framework would chip away at the right of sovereign states to chart their own independent paths, just like lockdowns shifted responsibility and agency from individuals to the public health clerisy.
Why empower a bigger and richer WHO to enforce wrong groupthink on the whole world? Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says an urgent priority is to “strengthen WHO as the leading and directing authority on global health,” for: “We are one world, we have one health, we are one WHO.” The Covid crisis “exposed serious gaps in the global health security architecture”; the new treaty would be “a generational agreement” and “a gamechanger” for global health security.
Not coincidentally, it will also:
· Consolidate the gains of those who profitted from Covid-19, concentrating private wealth, increasing national debts and decelerating poverty reduction;
· Expand the international health bureaucracy under the WHO;
· Shift the centre of gravity from common endemic diseases to relatively rare pandemic outbreaks;
· Create a self-perpetuating global biopharmaceutical complex;
· Shift the locus of health policy authority (new Article 13A.1 of the amended IHR), decision-making and resources from the state to an enlarged corps of international technocrats, creating and empowering an international analogue of the administrative state that has already thinned national democracies. Astonishingly, the WHO will be able to command governments to direct resources (goods as well as funds) to itself and to other governments (IHR amended Article 13.5, 13A.3–5));
· Create a perverse incentive: the rise of an international bureaucracy whose defining purpose, existence, powers and budgets will depend on outbreaks of pandemics, the more the better.
This is the stuff of bureaucrats’ wet dreams: the legal authority to declare an emergency and the power thereafter to commandeer resources for oneself from sovereign states and to redirect resources funded by the taxpayers of one country to other states. The Covid years saw a successful bureaucratic coup that displaced elected governments with cabals of unelected experts and technocrats who lorded it over citizens and intruded into the most intimate personal behaviour and business decisions.
Now the WHO is engaged in a silent coup against the governments of the world. If it succeeds, an organization set up to serve governments will boss over them instead and compel their taxpayers to pay for the privilege. It is a basic axiom of politics that power that can be abused, will be abused – some day, somewhere, by someone. The corollary holds that power once seized is seldom surrendered back voluntarily to the people.
Deeply held differences – over whether it should be legally binding or voluntary, limited to actual emergencies or extended to cover potential outbreaks, whether the WHO should be the single source of authority on pandemic information with the power to advise governments on what constitutes unreliable information, misinformation and disinformation (proposed new IHR Article 44.2e); on equitable vaccine access vs. vaccine nationalism where rich countries can price out the poor; robust regulation of wet markets, strengthened information sharing requirements etc. – will likely make the negotiations protracted and contentious and may yet scupper the initiative.
We can but live in hope.