House Republicans took to the podium on May 17 to condemn the Biden administration’s negotiation of global pandemic agreements that they say will grant additional power to the World Health Organization (WHO) and centralize authority in an organization they say failed the American public during the COVID pandemic.
Shortly thereafter, on May 19, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a report to member nations stating that, while the “re-emergence of epidemic-prone diseases continues to accelerate,” the WHO’s mandate regarding “health emergencies” must extend beyond pandemics to include hunger, poverty, ecological degradation, climate change, and social and economic inequalities.
The Director General wrote that member nations must establish a “global architecture for health emergency preparedness, prevention, response, and resilience (HEPR),” which includes “global governance, financing and HEPR systems.”
But GOP lawmakers disagreed with the WHO.
“International law does not trump our Constitution,” Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) said at a Capitol press conference. “Biden cannot force Americans to follow laws and regulations not passed by our own federal government.”
“The World Health Organization pandemic treaty is very vague, it affects our sovereignty, and it could be exploited to tell Americans what kind of health care they need in the event of a global pandemic,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said. The public forum was organized by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and included 18 House members.
Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, on behalf of the United States, is currently negotiating terms of the WHO Pandemic Accord, which is scheduled to be signed by the 194 WHO member nations in 2024, as well as amendments to International Health Regulations (IHRs), also under the auspices of the WHO. In sum, these negotiations are intended to produce legally binding treaties and agreements that will coordinate a united response among member nations during a “health emergency,” with much of the decision-making authority vested in the WHO.
According to these agreements, the WHO would have the authority to, for example, declare when a pandemic is in effect and to coordinate medical supply chains to ensure equitable distribution among member nations. The agreements also speak to global coordination between the WHO and national health authorities like the CDC to set health policies, and coordination among governments on issues like fighting “misinformation.”
The preamble to the “zero draft” of the WHO Pandemic Accord states that this treaty is necessary because of the “catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the coronavirus disease.” But critics say that the WHO’s failures during the past several years are a reason to reduce its authority, rather than give it more.
“The World Health Organization is one of the most corrupt, incompetent and, after COVID-19, the most thoroughly discredited institutions on the global stage,” Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) stated. “And yet, one of Joe Biden’s first things that he did was to bring the United States back into this corrupt organization.”
On July 6, 2020, former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the WHO and moved to cut off U.S. funding. Biden reversed this order immediately upon taking office.
Calling for the United States to withdraw from the WHO once again, House Republicans this week charged that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has undue influence in the WHO’s affairs.
“The House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on the CCP and its relationship with the World Health Organization with regard to COVID,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said. “They said it’s beyond doubt that the CCP actively engaged in a coverup designed to obfuscate dates, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world.”
The WHO, Biggs said, “responded to the CCP’s coverup by praising the CCP for their transparency … and repeatedly parroted CCP talking points.”
Republicans have introduced legislation this year in Congress, including the WHO Withdrawal Act that would end U.S. membership in the WHO, and the No Taxpayer Funding for the World Health Organization Act that would end America’s financial contributions to the WHO.
‘Greatest Intrusions on Civil Liberties in Peacetime History’
Negotiations with the WHO, which are taking place under a veil of secrecy, come in the wake of the COVID pandemic, which left many Americans concerned about government abuses of authority under the mantra of public health and safety.
Enumerating government abuses throughout the COVID pandemic, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote on May 18 in his opinion regarding Title 42 emergency decrees that “since March 2020, we may have experienced the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.”
Gorsuch stated: “Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private. They closed churches even as they allowed casinos and other favored businesses to carry on. They threatened violators not just with civil penalties but with criminal sanctions too. They surveilled church parking lots, recorded license plates, and issued notices warning that attendance at even outdoor services satisfying all state social-distancing and hygiene requirements could amount to criminal conduct. They divided cities and neighborhoods into color-coded zones, forced individuals to fight for their freedoms in court on emergency timetables, and then changed their color-coded schemes when defeat in court seemed imminent.