In the last few weeks, health advocates in the U.S. have seen massive wins in our stand against the rapid and coercive development of a global health governance. Thanks to your efforts to sound the alarm, the U.S. Congress has come alive with new bills, new sponsors on existing bills, and letters from the House and the Senate reminding the president that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no international agreement will push that aside.
So where are we now with the global health agenda? Read on for updates to the U.S. involvement with the World Health Organization so you can keep the momentum going!
What happened with the proposed US IHR amendments?
In January 2022, the United States, along with approximately 40 other countries, proposed amendments to 13 articles of the existing WHO International Health Regulations.[i] At WHA 75 in Geneva from May 22 through 28, 2022,[ii] the Assembly adopted a resolution to substantially amend one article of the International Health Regulations regarding timelines for amendments to the IHR, along with “necessary” changes to four additional articles to reinforce those major changes. Member States of the World Health Organization will have the opportunity to reject or accept the amendments with reservations (explained below). The other 12 amendments proposed by the U.S. are not off the table — these will now be addressed by the new Working Group on IHR Amendments which will report to the World Health Assembly in 2024, the same year the pandemic treaty is planned to be voted on.
The final version of the amendment was negotiated in “informal discussions” outside of the WHA meetings. U.S. Deputy Secretary Colin McIff of the HHS Office of Global Affairs explained on the record that, “Member States decided to commence a Member-State led process to consider proposed amendments2 to the International Health Regulations (2005) beyond those adopted below.” [iii] That footnote you see mid-sentence is in a WHA document and refers to the 12 proposed amendments rumored to be withdrawn. It refers to “Including the other proposed amendments set out in the annex of Document A75/18, as well as other amendments which have or may be submitted by other IHR (2005) States Parties or the Director-General, including through the above-mentioned Member State-led process.” (emphasis added) Document A75/18 includes the amendments as submitted by the U.S. to the WHO. So not only are all of the U.S. amendments still proposed for consideration, more amendments from other Member States are invited as well.
Details on the adopted amendment
The amendment adopted at the WHA to Article 59: Entry into force; period for rejection or reservations, regarding the timeline for new amendments to the IHR to be adopted and become legally binding on Member States was the one never thought to be withdrawn.
The U.S. wanted to reduce the timeline for adoption of new amendments from a 2-year process to a 6-month process. Right now, after notification of an adopted amendment, countries have 18 months to reject or make reservations, and an additional 6 months before those amendments go into force. The proposal adopted by WHA 75 decreases that timeline to 10 months instead of 18 months to reject or reserve, and two additional months for effect, shortening the entire timeline by a year.
Amendment to Section 59 adopted by the Assembly,[iv] along with additional language changes to Articles 55, 61, 62, 63, having to do with the amendment process, rejections and reservations, and the timeline for amendments to go into force was proposed to reinforce the changes proposed to Article 59. These additional articles were not in the original U.S. proposal but were deemed necessary after informal negotiations.[v]
Throughout the Assembly, countries voiced opposition to, or concern with, changes to WHO authority and reach by way of amending the IHR and creating a new pandemic treaty. Notably, Brazil President Jair Bolsanaro stated Brazil would have no part of a pandemic treaty[vi] (and has been on record since 2020 considering leaving the WHO entirely[vii]). Other countries expressing concern included Botswana, Iran, Bangladesh, Namibia, India, Brunei, the Russian Federation,[viii] and several African states.[ix]
What to watch for now?
Health Advocates can keep an eye on the WHO process through 2024, but pay attention to what is happening in the WHO’s backyard which will eventually come knocking.
WHA created two new WHO groups to work on IHR changes.
The Assembly agreed to the creation of two new groups in the WHO to work on updating the IHR. The Working Group on IHR Regulations (WGIHR) will meet over the next two years to collect, discuss, and propose “targeted” amendments to the IHR at the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.[x] The WGIHR will be helped by a new IHR Review Committee to focus on “technical recommendations” (changes that are not considered substantial enough to be amendments but bring the IHR in line with amendments and goals for strengthening the WHO).
The WGIHR must coordinate with the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), “as both the International Health Regulations (2005) and the new instrument are expected to play central roles in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response in the future.”[xi]
Timeline as of June 1, 2022 (all subject to change)
- TBD – Official notice from the WHO Director-General of adoption of resolution to amend Articles 59, 55, 61, 62 and 63 of the IHR, which starts the clock ticking for reservations or rejections
- TBD — Member States must reject or take reservation. By law, States should have 18 months, per the existing and legally binding regulations in force now. Some wonder, however, if the DG will impose the newly adopted timeline even though it is not yet in force. (In other words, the U.S. will have 10 to 18 months to respond to the amendments.)
- June 16-17 — Second meeting of INB to inform drafting of pandemic treaty[xii]
- August 2022 — First draft of pandemic treaty expected
- September 30, 2022 — Deadline for proposed amendments to IHR
- October 1, 2022 — Deadline for creation of IHR Review Committee for technical recommendations to proposed amendments and to inform the work of the WGIHR
- November 15, 2022 — Deadline for first meeting of WGIHR
- January 15, 2023 — Requested deadline for IHR Review Committee to submit a report to the DG, who will transfer it to the WGIHR immediately
- May 2023 — World Health Assembly 76
- May 2024 — World Health Assembly 77 to consider targeted amendments to IHR as well as pandemic treaty.
The IHR and treaty are not the only way to move a global health agenda forward.
Outside of these documents, meetings, and negotiations, there are other agreements strategically being put into place. The World Bank is setting up accounts for a new global health security fund for pandemic preparedness, which already has over $3.2 billion pledged by countries around the globe.[xiii] The WHO opened a new global hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence in Germany for “data, surveillance, and analytics innovation…the largest network of global data to predict, prevent, detect, prepare for, and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks worldwide.”[xiv] The WHO also has ongoing research, pilot programs, and guidance regarding digital documentation of COVID-19 tests and vaccination certificates.[xv] Switzerland is home to the new WHO BioHub where countries can rapidly share novel biological materials and pathogens.[xvi] Negotiations to share intellectual property (patent rights) for pandemic medical products have been ongoing at the World Trade Organization.[xvii] Right now all of these agreements and negotiations are voluntary, but all of these issues are expected to be addressed and become legally binding through the pandemic treaty.
In America there are state and federal laws, bills, and regulations either aligning with or rejecting the WHO. Stand for Health Freedom already reported on the 2017 CDC quarantine regulation updates that included the WHO definition of public health emergency.[xviii] State legislatures started seeing bills referencing WHO definitions as well, including the Mental Health Parity Act that did not pass the Georgia House this past session.[xix] The Biden administration created an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity in 2021, [xx] and added to it an Office of Environmental Justice, within the Health and Human Services agency. [xxi] This new creation is in line with the “One Health” approach of the WHO for the new pandemic treaty, which includes humans, animals, and the environment together in public health.
Here’s the great news.
Americans have seen lawmakers wake up and start opposing WHO takeover of U.S. public health decisions.
Since the launch of the SHF action to support HR 419, No Taxpayer Funding for the WHO Act, there have been 39 new cosponsors! Two senators[xxii] as well as House members of the Freedom Caucus[xxiii] sent letters to the White House insisting the U.S. reform their relationship with the WHO or pull out altogether. Some representatives have been making public statements against WHO involvement, like Mary Miller from Illinois.[xxiv] Candidates for governor are speaking out against WHO overreach after witnessing two years of federal overreach and promising to stand strong to protect the health of their constituents.[xxv] State legislators, like in Louisiana, are voicing opposition as well![xxvi]
Additionally, in just one week three new bills were introduced in Congress to protect U.S. sovereignty in public health matters. Senator Rick Scott of Florida introduced S4305 on May 25, a bill to limit the authority of the WHO on the U.S. and oppose amendments not approved by Congress.[xxvii] Senator Ron Johnson announced his introduction of a bill, “No WHO Pandemic Preparedness Treaty Without Senate Approval Act.”[xxviii] And Representatives Rogers and Massie introduced HR 7806, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act,” which expands congressional oversight beyond the WHO to its parent organization the United Nations.[xxix]
Steps You Can Take Now:
You are making a difference! Our lawmakers are hearing your message about protecting our rights and our Constitution when it comes to health. Let’s keep the momentum going!
Step 1: Tell your lawmakers about the WHO’s plans for global health governance. Your representatives can support HR 419, and your senators can make sure they are doing their constitutional duty to advise and approve of any international treaties. Our campaign makes it easy to get in touch with email and phone scripts that you can use or adapt to send a message.
Step 2: We can stop medical tyranny by voting people into office who will stand for health freedom! To have good candidates on the ballot in November, we must vote now in the primaries. Check out where your candidates stand using our Vote for Health Freedom Guide for your state! Go to our Vote for Health Freedom page, or Text the letters VHF to 52886, to learn about candidates in your area!