The Biden administration is preparing to sign up the United States to a “legally binding” accord with the World Health Organization (WHO) that would give this Geneva-based UN subsidiary the authority to dictate America’s policies during a pandemic.
Despite widespread criticism of the WHO’s response to the COVID pandemic, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra joined with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in September 2022 to announce “the U.S.-WHO Strategic Dialogue.” Together, they developed a “platform to maximize the longstanding U.S. government-WHO partnership, and to protect and promote the health of all people around the globe, including the American people.”
These discussions and others spawned the “zero draft” (pdf) of a pandemic treaty, published on Feb. 1, which now seeks ratification by all 194 WHO member states. A meeting of the WHO’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) is scheduled for Feb. 27 to work out the final terms, which all members will then sign.
Written under the banner of “the world together equitably,” the zero draft grants the WHO the power to declare and manage a global pandemic emergency. Once a health emergency is declared, all signatories, including the United States, would submit to the authority of the WHO regarding treatments, government regulations such as lockdowns and vaccine mandates, global supply chains, and monitoring and surveillance of populations.
Centralized Pandemic Response
“They want to see a centralized, vaccine-and-medication-based response, and a very restrictive response in terms of controlling populations,” David Bell, a public health physician and former WHO staffer specializing in epidemic policy, told The Epoch Times. “They get to decide what is a health emergency, and they are putting in place a surveillance mechanism that will ensure that there are potential emergencies to declare.”
The WHO pandemic treaty is part of a two-track effort, coinciding with an initiative by the World Health Assembly (WHA) to create new global pandemic regulations that would also supersede the laws of member states. The WHA is the rule-making body of the WHO, comprised of representatives from the member states.
“Both [initiatives] are fatally dangerous,” Francis Boyle, professor of international law at Illinois University, told The Epoch Times. “Either one or both would set up a worldwide medical police state under the control of the WHO, and in particular WHO Director-General Tedros. If either one or both of these go through, Tedros or his successor will be able to issue orders that will go all the way down the pipe to your primary care physicians.”
Physician Meryl Nass told The Epoch Times: “If these rules go through as currently drafted, I, as a doctor, will be told what I am allowed to give a patient and what I am prohibited from giving a patient whenever the WHO declares a public health emergency. So they can tell you you’re getting remdesivir, but you can’t have hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. What they’re also saying is they believe in equity, which means everybody in the world gets vaccinated, whether or not you need it, whether or not you’re already immune.”
Regarding medical treatments, the accord would require member nations to “monitor and regulate against substandard and falsified pandemic-related products.” Based on previous WHO and Biden administration policy, this would likely include forcing populations to take newly-developed vaccines while preventing doctors from prescribing non-vaccine treatments or medicines.
Circumventing America’s Constitution
A key question surrounding the accord is whether the Biden administration can bind America to treaties and agreements without the consent of the U.S. Senate, which is required under the Constitution. The zero draft concedes that, per international law, treaties between countries must be ratified by national legislatures, thus respecting the right of their citizens to consent. However, the draft also includes a clause that the accord will go into effect on a “provisional” basis, as soon as it is signed by delegates to the WHO, and therefore it will be legally binding on members without being ratified by legislatures.
“Whoever drafted this clause knew as much about U.S. constitutional law and international law as I did, and deliberately drafted it to circumvent the power of the Senate to give its advice and consent to treaties, to provisionally bring it into force immediately upon signature,” Boyle said. In addition, “the Biden administration will take the position that this is an international executive agreement that the president can conclude of his own accord without approval by Congress, and is binding on the United States of America, including all state and local democratically elected officials, governors, attorney generals and health officials.”
There are several U.S. Supreme Court decisions that may support the Biden administration in this. They include State of Missouri v. Holland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that treaties supersede state laws. Other decisions, such as United States v. Belmont, ruled that executive agreements without Senate consent can be legally binding, with the force of treaties.
There are parallels between the WHO pandemic accord and a recent OECD global tax agreement, which the Biden administration signed on to but which Republicans say has “no path forward” to legislative approval. In the OECD agreement, there are punitive terms built in that allow foreign countries to punish American companies if the deal is not ratified by the United States.
As with the OECD tax agreement, administration officials are attempting to appeal to international organizations to impose policies that have been rejected by America’s voters. Under the U.S. Constitution, health care does not fall under the authority of the federal government; it is the domain of the states. The Biden administration found this to be an unwelcome impediment to its attempts to impose vaccine and mask mandates on Americans, when courts ruled that federal agencies did not have the authority to do so.
“To circumvent that, they went to the WHO, for either the regulations or the treaty, to get around domestic opposition,” Boyle said.
According to the zero draft, signatories would agree to “strengthen the capacity and performance of national regulatory authorities and increase the harmonization of regulatory requirements at the international and regional level.” They will also implement a “whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach at the national level” that will include national governments, local governments, and private companies.
The zero draft stated that this new accord is necessary because of “the catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”
A report from the WHO’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (pdf) characterized the WHO’s performance as a “toxic cocktail” of bad decisions. Co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the BBC it was due to “a myriad of failures, gaps and delays.” The solutions proposed by that report, however, did not suggest more local autonomy or diversified decision-making, but rather greater centralization, more power, and more money for the WHO.