WHO pandemic treaty, 'universal vaccine passports' expected for 2024: report

Though Canada has not stated its official position on the proposed treaty, it committed $50 million to the WHO's Pandemic Fund last November and held 'public consultations' in Ottawa this March.

WHO pandemic treaty, 'universal vaccine passports' expected for 2024: report
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The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union (EU) have joined forces to bolster "global capacities" and "resilience" for future pandemics, apparently aiming to implement a global digital 'vaccine passport' by next May.

"In June 2023, WHO will take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from ongoing and future health threats," reads a June 5 statement by the European Union.

"This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) that will develop a wide range of digital products to deliver better health for all."

The EU says it will provide WHO with the technical expertise needed "to encourage maximum global uptake and participation," as reported by the Counter Signal.

The WHO has advocated for global guidelines for managing health emergencies since publishing its 2005 International Health Regulations.

Last November, the White House also declared support for the WHO to facilitate universal 'vaccine passports' on behalf of Canada and the entire G20 delegation.

"We acknowledge the importance of shared technical standards and verification methods, under the framework of the [International Health Regulations], to facilitate seamless international travel, interoperability, and recognizing digital solutions and non-digital solutions, including proof of vaccinations," said the White House.

Last September, Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his government's engagement with the WHO in amending the International Health Regulations.

"As an active member of the WHO, Canada has always been there to push for better science and impacts in how we collaborate around the world," replied Trudeau. "Canada is a leading voice in ensuring that we make it through this pandemic…[and] prepare for future pandemics, which may be the reality for decades and generations to come." 

"We will continue to be active, strong participants in international fora around health while always respecting and protecting Canada's sovereignty and choices to make the right decisions for its citizens," he said.

On November 16, Canada committed $50 million towards the WHO's Pandemic Fund, which includes funding for "emergency communications and management."

In March, approximately 100 representatives of Canadian provinces and territories, including Indigenous peoples, youth, civil society, private sector and academia — plus another 100 virtual participants — gathered in Ottawa to "help inform the development of Canada's priorities and objectives in the creation of a pandemic instrument."

The federal government has not stated its official position on the proposed treaty.

In March 2021, world leaders announced their hopes for a new pandemic treaty to bolster future preparedness and response. It would include enhancing international cooperation to improve data-sharing and local, regional and global production and distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment.

In October 2021, the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and Response to Health Emergencies (WGPR) published a 'zero draft' report on the benefits of a new WHO convention, agreement or international pandemic preparedness and response instrument. 

The report suggested the initiative "could include promoting high-level political commitment and whole-of-government whole-of-society approaches, addressing equity, enhancing the One Health approach."

In a leaked draft of proposed amendments, Canada submitted limits to accessing medical technologies and intellectual property, permitting pharmaceutical companies to withhold technology transfer at their whim — a blatant contradiction of their support for more significant equity.

From November 29 to December 1, 2021, the World Health Assembly (WHA) met in a special session to discuss the proposal and how best to move forward — the second-ever special session for the Assembly.

In this session, 194 member states, including Canada, agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate "a WHO convention, agreement, or another international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response."

The WHA presented a progress report last month to members and expects the pandemic treaty to be active as early as next year.

However, the WHO acknowledged "any new agreement… drafted and negotiated by the government, will take action in line with their sovereignty." It remains unclear how this principle would be respected in a comprehensive treaty, as the INB has already concluded it should be legally binding on signatory nations.

"The importance of a legally binding instrument cannot be overstated: it will be our collective legacy for future generations," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Of greatest concern, the pandemic treaty gives WHO the legal ability to direct Canada's future pandemic response, such as mandating health measures from lockdowns to social distancing to the distribution of 'government-approved' vaccines within Canada. 

The treaty is also likely to define and classify a pandemic.

Ghebreyesus said the WHO would be the "custodians" of the International Health Regulations to "put in place the measures to make the world safer."

"Crucially, countries must be in the driver's seat," contends Ghebreyesus, who praised member states for affirming their commitment to the regulations. "The fund's primary aim must be to support national plans."

He added that 'climate change,' deforestation and urbanization would exacerbate the impacts of future pandemics, "unless we take concerted and coordinated action as one global community."

Canada's federal spy service claims that 'climate change' threatens national security and prosperity, including arctic security, environmental degradation, and violent extremism.

An April 2021 brief declared climate change would undermine critical global infrastructure, threaten health and safety, create new scarcity and spark international competition.

It also claims that newly uninhabitable territory, extreme weather events, drought and food shortages, and human conflict zones might cause unprecedented human migration.

"Canada will likely be seen as a desirable place for future immigration flows, not only due to its stable economy and fundamental rights and freedoms but also its significant freshwater and agricultural endowments and vast territory that offer options for mass relocation," according to the brief.

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  • By Tamara Ugolini

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