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Is the Plan to Impose a Public-Health Technocracy Faltering?

Photo: World Health Organization, by Yann Forget, via Wikimedia Commons.

In February, I warned about a treaty being negotiated to empower the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic, which would trigger governments assuming mandatory emergency powers. From, “Transforming WHO into a Public-Health Technocracy“:

The WHO director-general would be granted the power to “declare pandemics,” at which point emergency provisions of the treaty to impose public-health policies would go into effect. . . .

The WHO would be able to dictate policies if international consensus were not obtained by a vote of the two presidents and four vice presidents of the WHO CA+. . . .

The International Court of Justice would also be granted decisive power. . . .

It would centralize pandemic planning and response into itself. . . .

WHO could also eviscerate existing intellectual-property rights. . . .

The treaty would also allow centralized control over discourse and debate. . . .

The agreement allows for “provisional” membership pending a nation’s formal ratification, which would seem to mean that the president could sign us up indefinitely without congressional acquiescence.

“Very Significant Watering Down”

The good news is that the mandatory aspects of the negotiations appear to be faltering:

There was “a very significant watering down of language in this draft compared to previous drafts”, says Suerie Moon, a global-health-policy researcher at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland.

The earlier, more ambitious version described how countries should respond to a future pandemic by frequently using words such as “shall” and “will” — but now some of those have shifted to “urge” and “support”, says Kelley Lee, a global-health researcher at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. She also flagged language that would allow nations to opt out of directives in the document: the phrase “as appropriate”, for example, appeared 47 times. She says that this would give the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO), who are meant to sign the agreement, the ability to prioritize national interests over collective action.

The story states that, if passed, the technocracy would be able to commandeer the intellectual-property rights of pharmaceutical companies. This would have the deleterious side effect of making those companies less eager to invest in experimental medicines and drugs:

The zero draft called on member states to support temporary waivers on intellectual-property rights during pandemics to accelerate manufacturing of products such as vaccines. It also stated that, when publicly funding research that aims to develop pandemic-related products, member states should include terms and conditions that facilitate access to those products should an epidemic occur.

Although the new draft — not yet released by the WHO, but obtained by the Geneva-based media outlet Health Policy Watch — maintains equity as a guiding principle, it is less clear about how that equity will be achieved, critics say. The statements on the conditions for public funding have disappeared. And the draft now contains options, for when negotiations resume, to remove language about intellectual-property-rights waivers altogether.

This Is a Good Sign

If the technocratic editors of Nature (quoted above) are alarmed that the treaty won’t waive intellectual-property rights, believers in the importance of national sovereignty should be encouraged.

Still, we shouldn’t make too much of it even if the agreement is eventually watered down. Technocrats don’t rely on mandates but eagerly impose policies that render society less free. For example, the Paris Accords are not mandatory — and yet using it as an excuse, the Netherlands plans on instituting forced buyouts of farms, and Ireland is threatening to cull tens of thousands of cows each year to reduce emissions. Meanwhile, states in the U.S. are banning gas stoves in new buildings as politicians stifle our ability to be energy independent.

But we should rejoice in small victories and thank whichever countries are responsible for watering down this proposal. (I doubt it is us.) If the language of the treaty can be sufficiently dampened, and if we elect leaders who won’t surrender to the international technocrats — a big if — then the authoritarian scenarios I feared might be avoided.

Cross-posted at National Review.