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U.K. set to join WHO pandemic treaty to 'tackle the next pandemic'

A draft of the WHO's pandemic treaty is expected to be released at the beginning of August.

U.K. set to join WHO pandemic treaty to 'tackle the next pandemic'
Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP
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A letter from world leaders published by the World Health Organization in late March 2021 outlines an agenda to “build a more robust international health architecture,” and that “nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response”.

The “renewed collective commitment”, the statement reads, “would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level.”

In effect, this pandemic treated spearheaded by the WHO will give this one organisation the power to set laws and organise plans in countries that have joined the treat in an effort to “combat the next pandemic”.

Francis Hoar, a public law barrister outlined the complexities behind a global group like the WHO attempting to enforce its agenda in sovereign nations.

“It is worth noting the difference between international law and domestic law,” Hoar said. “Unlike with the European Union, the international health regulations are imposed by the WHO and are a treaty obligation to a country and they do not have the force of law."

Hoar also says by signing the treaty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will “give power over the U.K. to unelected WHO officials influenced by China.”

In Canada, Conservative Party leadership contender and current member of Parliament, Leslyn Lewis, pushed back against the proposed treaty, saying it would lead to Canada surrendering its health care sovereignty. Rebel News reporter Drea Humphrey wrote about the legislation and Lewis' rebuke in a recent article.

According to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), which publishes expert and accessible research about the COVID-19 pandemic, a draft text of the WHO's pandemic treaty is expected for 1 August 2022. Ensuring a “transparent, inclusive and fair” procedure will require the “full participation of all members states with meaningful inclusion of non-state actors.”

A pair of experts cited by LSE recommend the involvement of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and International Labour Organization. As well, the treat will need the involvement of regional bodies like the African Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Without the support of civil society,” LSE says, “a pandemic treaty will not see the light of day, or it will not protect those most at risk.”

LSE has also produced a list of "thematic wishes" from the treaty, which include:

  • Anchoring the treaty in human rights and addressing the principles of the right to health, equity, solidarity, transparency, trust, and accountability;
  • Using a One Health approach for pandemic prevention and early detection.
  • Stronger health systems information and reporting mechanisms; including better use of digital technology for data collection and sharing.
  • A reform of the WHO alarm mechanism, the public health emergency of international control (PHEIC) declaration process and travel and travel restrictions;
  • Pathogen and genomic data sharing.
  • Resilience to and response to pandemics, including universal access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, medical equipment and treatments as well as resilient supply chains, and technology transfer.
  • Investments in health system strengthening and increased financing for pandemic preparedness and response.
  • Stronger international health framework with a strengthened WHO at the centre and increase global coordination.
  • Reinforcing legal obligations and norms of global health security and standard settings of health care systems.
  • Coordination of research and development (R&D).

A statement on the U.K. government's website, which is also dated 30 March 2021 like the WHO's release, of which Johnson is included as a signatory, reads:

At that time, following the devastation of two world wars, political leaders came together to forge the multilateral system. The aims were clear – to bring countries together, to dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism and to address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, namely peace, prosperity, health and security.

There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when. Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly co-ordinated fashion. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.

To that end, we believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response. Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level. It would be rooted in the constitution of the World Health Organisation, drawing in other relevant organisations key to this endeavour, in support of the principle of health for all.

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