The World Health Organisation has proposed that the international community negotiate and eventually ratify an international “accord” or “treaty” that would effectively consolidate the position of the WHO as the pre-eminent public authority responsible for guiding and coordinating international pandemic responses.

An international pandemic treaty may seem like a smart move to ensure better international coordination of pandemic prevention and mitigation. However, given the events of the past two and a half years, the less than exemplary role of global health leaders in those events, and the perennial dangers of centralised power and authority, the case against such a treaty is pretty compelling.

The WHO got the ball rolling with its decision on December 1, 2021 “to kickstart a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.” This was to be further developed on May 3 by a “Zero draft report of the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies.

For now, this is an unratified draft report. Nonetheless, it has some troubling features that give us a hint of the WHO’s intentions in proposing a pandemic treaty:

“WHO’s leadership role in health needs to be maximized in future pandemic architecture and financing, especially its norms and standard setting role” (p. 3, emphasis added)  

“WHO Secretariat to work with MS (member States) to strengthen their approaches to and capacities for information and infodemic management…and to counter inaccurate information and unsubstantiated rumours” (p. 17).   

The WHO Secretariat should “develop standards for producing a digital version of the International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis, in consultation with States Parties and partners including conducting a study on issues relating to digital vaccination certificates…” (p. 20).

Given the amount of aggressive censorship we have seen of scientific and political debate during the pandemic, under the pretext of suppressing “misinformation and disinformation,” it is troubling, to say the least, that one of the intentions behind the WHO’s pandemic treaty initiative is to further centralise the “management” of “information” and the “countering” of what the powers that be consider to be “inaccurate information.”

Given the amount of arbitrary discrimination citizens have confronted under vaccine apartheid schemes (including perfectly healthy citizens with immunity conferred through natural infection), it is troubling, to say the least, that digitalisation of international vaccination certificates would be overseen by a centralised global health authority such as the WHO.

There are independent reasons for avoiding the concentration of power in any international organ, no matter how wise or competent, given that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But there are also special reasons for distrusting the WHO specifically to act as a wise guide to pandemic policy.

The WHO played a pivotal role in the promotion of lockdowns across the world. In a press conference as early as February 24, 2020, WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward sent a clear signal that lockdowns were an effective and appropriate response to the threat of Covid-19, in spite of the fact that lockdowns were in no way contemplated by the WHO’s own 2019 pandemic guidelines.

…now we’re starting to see countries like Italy take extremely aggressive actions. What China has demonstrated is, you have to do this. If you do it, you can save lives and prevent thousands of cases of what is a very difficult disease (emphasis added).

Given that lockdowns were essentially a giant experiment that, predictably enough, did untold damage to the lives and health of millions of people across the globe (see, for example, this discussion of a book on this topic by SAGE scientist Mark Woolhouse), and were a dramatic departure from tried-and-tested methods of disease control, the WHO’s endorsement of lockdowns hardly qualifies it as an institution that deserves enhanced authority and prestige in the coordination of global responses to pandemic threats.

Aside from the WHO’s dubious track record as a beacon of public health, there are serious problems with the way this organisation is financed. As pointed out in this excellent interview on the Epoch Times with former WHO infectious disease scientist Dr David Bell, the WHO’s funding structure has radically shifted over the past three decades.

An organisation that once relied overwhelmingly on the funding of member States now obtains only half of its total budget from member States (according to this 2018-19 WHO budget review), and the rest from NGOs, philanthropic foundations, development banks, etc. Much of the WHO’s non-governmental funding is earmarked for specific donor-approved projects.

What this means, in practice, is that private donors and corporations have disproportionate leverage over WHO policies and strategic decisions.

Consider, for example, the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has recently acquired shares valued at over US$200 million in a range of pharmaceutical companies including Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, is now the second largest of WHO’s donors, ahead of most national governments. This generates obvious conflicts of interest between the humanitarian public health mission of the WHO and the financial stakes that its private donors have in specific health-related initiatives like universal vaccination.

Putting the WHO at the head of a budding international pandemic bureaucracy sealed by a pandemic treaty would harm global public health in at least four ways:

First, it would effectively legitimate the WHO’s flawed response to Covid-19, which included enthusiastic endorsement of lockdowns by its own Assistant Director-General, making it more likely that we would see the senseless tragedy of lockdown repeated across the world.

Second, it would disproportionately increase the power of private donors like Bill Gates (a philanthropist whose foundation now has a significant financial stake in Big Pharma) over global pandemic responses, laying the groundwork for ever larger conflicts of interest between private finance and public health.

Third, it would lay the groundwork for a vast international bureaucracy with a strong vested interest in detecting and declaring pandemic threats, in order to perpetuate its own survival and funding.

Fourth, in promoting greater harmonisation of public health policies under the WHO’s own direction, it would reduce the margin of political and legal tolerance for dissenting strategies for tackling public health problems, making it more difficult for individual regions to adopt outlier strategies (e.g. Sweden’s light-touch approach to pandemic management), and more difficult for the international community to learn from the results of divergent strategies for advancing and protecting public health.

This article has been republished from David Thunder’s Substack, The Freedom Blog.

David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society.