World Health Organization’s short public comment period for pandemic treaty receives backlash

The World Health Organization has announced a public consultation period for a new treaty aimed at better tackling future pandemics, but critics say the process, which has now ended, has so far been too short and secretive .

“A period of public comment on the takeover of the World Health Organization becomes nothing more than a public relations charade when there is no accountability on the part of the governed to of those who seek to regulate their lives – and should not and cannot be used as justification to move forward with this flagrant violation of constitutional principle,” Rep. Chris Smith, RN.J., told Fox News Digital in a statement.

At stake is the WHO’s so-called “pandemic accord”, a proposed treaty that its proponents say will help organize the international response to future pandemics. The WHO formally launched the treaty-drafting process last year, aiming to have an agreement in place by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the many flaws in the global system for protecting people from pandemics: the most vulnerable people going without vaccines; health workers without the equipment needed to do their vital work; and ‘me first’ “approaches that hinder the global solidarity needed to confront a global threat,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the time.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is Director General of the World Health Organization.
(Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, file)

“But at the same time, we’ve seen inspiring demonstrations of science and policy collaboration, from rapid vaccine development to countries’ ongoing commitment to brokering a global agreement that will help protect future generations from the impacts of pandemics,” said Tedros. added.

But the effort has raised concerns that such a treaty could encroach on the sovereignty of member countries, giving too much power to an organization that has come under fire for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith, who is the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, added that “Congress and the American people must stay vigilant against any effort by the Biden administration to cede power to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats or technocratic elites both at home and abroad.” He continued, “We are a self-governing nation – not a nation that must be commanded by mandates from a global bureaucracy like the World Health Organization which is subject to the corrupting influence of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Those concerns led Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to introduce legislation in May to prevent the United States from agreeing to a WHO treaty without Senate approval.

“The WHO, along with our federal health agencies, has failed miserably in its response to COVID-19,” Johnson said at the time. “Its failure should not be rewarded with a new international treaty that would increase its power at the expense of American sovereignty. What the WHO needs is greater accountability and transparency. This bill makes it clear to the Biden administration that any new WHO pandemic agreement must be treated as a treaty and submitted to the Senate for ratification.The sovereignty of the United States is not negotiable.

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Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc via Getty Images)

Now the WHO is facing backlash for its handling of the public comment period for the treaty, with the Freedom First Foundation saying the announcement gave the public a ‘brief window’ to submit comments and criticizing the rules organizational restrictions for those who are able to submit a comment.

“For a treaty granting the WHO authority over ‘the whole of society,’ neglecting to inform most of society about the hearing is deeply concerning,” said the president of the First Freedom Foundation. , Patrice Pederson, in a recent press release. “For a treaty with ‘equity’ as an overarching theme to exclude vulnerable and marginalized people from participation, this demonstrates a lack of understanding of the challenges that exist.”

The Freedom First Foundation also called on the organization to use Twitter to make the announcement, noting that only a fraction of the world’s population uses the social media network.

“No press conference was held to announce the comment period, no public information campaign was undertaken and there were no mentions on the official WHO Facebook or Instagram pages,” the organization said in its press release. “The announcement felt more like an ‘invitation’ than an invitation,” Pederson said of the post.

The WHO also faced backlash for saying the comment period would be the last, with Pederson arguing that it appears the organization is not genuinely seeking comment. The public comment period ended last week.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is Director General of the World Health Organization.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is Director General of the World Health Organization.
(Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via Reuters)

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said stakeholders were encouraged to participate: “The WHO Secretariat has engaged in extensive outreach efforts to promote and facilitate broad public participation in this second round of public hearings to support the work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), made up of all 194 sovereign Member States of the WHO, on the new international agreement on prevention, preparedness and pandemic response.

He continued, “This outreach included informing our Member States, all non-State actors in official relations with the WHO, all those who have been in contact with the WHO Secretariat during the process # PandemicAccord and everyone who made verbal statements during the first round of public hearings in April 2022, that we would be accepting video submissions in September 2022.”

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The spokesperson argued that the organization had issued numerous warnings about the event on social media, noting that announcements had been posted in all WHO regional accounts.

“WHO outreach also included posts on the organization’s social media accounts in all six WHO regions. their respective languages. »

The spokesperson also noted that all submitted videos will be posted on the organization’s website, which the organization did during the first round of public comments.

As for the adoption of the agreement, the spokesperson noted: “As with all international instruments, any new agreement, if and when approved by WHO member states, would be determined by the governments themselves. themselves, who would take any action taking into account their own national laws. and regulations.”

The 194 members of the WHO are expected to meet to decide on the deal in 2024.

Aubrey L. Morgan