World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared in a speech on Monday that anyone concerned about the erosion of sovereignty under the W.H.O.’s proposed pandemic treaty is “uninformed or lying” and such an agreement “actually affirms national sovereignty.”
W.H.O. member states have been working on a draft for an international agreement on how to address pandemics since at least 2021 in response to the United Nations’ poor response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. The agency set a deadline of May 2024 to introduce a final draft proposal to the World Health Assembly, its annual member summit, scheduled to take place that month.
The current iteration of the proposed treaty includes provisions that have alarmed some members of Congress, health observers, activists, and others. Among them are vague provisions to increase funding to the W.H.O. that do not ensure clear commitments, expansion of the W.H.O.’s authorities to declare various health emergencies, and provisions demanding unspecified action against “misinformation and disinformation” that critics argue could result in further erosion of free speech globally.
The W.H.O., and Tedros personally, have faced years of international condemnation for failing to notify the world that the novel virus spreading in Wuhan, China, in early 2020 was, in fact, a contagious pathogen, for allowing the criminal Chinese Communist Party to destroy critical evidence such as early samples of the virus that could have been used to more rapidly develop treatments for those infected, and discouraging travel bans that could have limited or slowed the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
A laboratory operator wearing protective gear handles patients’ samples in a laboratory. The deadly coronavirus that has broken out in China has so far [at the time of this photograph] killed 106 people and infected over 4,000 — the bulk of them in and around Wuhan (THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images).
Tedros has personally faced condemnation for presiding over the organization during a massive sexual assault scandal, overriding health experts (Tedros is not a medical doctor) to make large-scale W.H.O. decisions, maintaining inappropriately close relations with genocidal Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. Despite this, Tedros won a second uncontested term to run the W.H.O. in 2022.
Tedros has responded to criticism of his handling of the pandemic largely by arguing that the W.H.O. was not empowered to do enough to address the emergency, a defense he brought to the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Monday.
“Although some progress has been made, like improvements in surveillance, the Pandemic Fund, building capacities in vaccine production and the periodic review we have started, still, the world is not prepared for a pandemic,” Tedros told those convening in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “The cycle of panic and neglect is beginning to repeat. And there will be a next time. History teaches us that the next pandemic is a matter of when, not if.”
“Had the agreement been in place before [Wuhan coronavirus], we would not have lost so much,” Tedros claimed.
The W.H.O. head described two “major obstacles” to passing an international pandemic law, the first being disagreements among W.H.O. member states, which he said he was “confident” the countries would overcome; the other being the agency chief described as a “litany of lies and conspiracy theories about the agreement”:
That it’s a power grab by the World Health Organization; That it will cede sovereignty to WHO; That it will give WHO power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries; That it’s an “attack on freedom”; That WHO will not allow people to travel; And that WHO wants to control people’s lives. These are some of the lies that are being spread.
“If they weren’t so dangerous, these lies would be funny,” Tedros continued, “But they put the health of the world’s people at risk. And that is no laughing matter.”
Calling the concerns of those highlighting the vague provisions of the draft pandemic agreement “utterly, completely, categorically false,” Tedros made the argument that joining the agreement would expand sovereignty.
“W.H.O. will not even be a party to the agreement. The parties are governments and governments alone,” Tedros said. “Far from ceding sovereignty, the agreement actually affirms national sovereignty and national responsibility in its foundational principles. Indeed, the agreement is itself an exercise of sovereignty.”
Tedros insisted that anyone concerned about the significant increase in the authority granted to the W.H.O. through the agreement was “either uninformed or lying” and encouraged those concerned to read the draft text, available on the agency’s website.
The W.H.O. chief concluded his address on Monday by urging the world to “say no to inequity, no to lies and misinformation, and yes to international cooperation.”
Tedros has increased his condemnation of critics of the pandemic accord since the year began in anticipation of the World Health Assembly this year. In January, Tedros lamented a “torrent of fake news, lies, and conspiracy theories” allegedly attacking the pandemic accord.
“In my view, a failure to deliver the pandemic agreement and the IHR amendments will be a missed opportunity for which future generations may not forgive us,” Tedros told the executive board of the W.H.O.
Tedros has not addressed several of the specific concerns that opponents of the pandemic treaty have raised beyond sovereignty issues. During a press conference last week, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) invited several experts to discuss the provisions in the draft that have alarmed them. Rep. Smith himself noted the possibility that the treaty would result in the American taxpayer funding abortions and a mandate to censor free speech.
“There is absolutely no ambiguity here. Abortion is included in the list of essential health care services published by WHO in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19 [the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic] despite the fact that a majority of countries restrict and regulate abortion,” Rep. Smith noted. The agreement would require party states to give “annual monetary contributions” to “essential health care services.”
The congressman also noted that the draft treaty “offers no protections for free speech, including specificity regarding how it would define ‘combat’ or ‘misinformation.’”
“With regard to Covid-19, does that apply retroactively to the WHO and Director Tedros concerning the origins of Covid-19, misleading guidance and the malign influence of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party on all matters related to the virus?” Rep. Smith asked. “Will there be any room for dissent on vaccines, therapeutics, virus transmission and the like — especially among scientists and health professionals — or will group think again crowd out other viewpoints?”