Furore over proposed amendment of IHR by WHO
•EII kicks, says amendments to IHR are simply amplified version of failed Infectious Disease Bill
•Says proposal should be passed to N’ Assembly for vetting, has very troubling, far reaching implications for Nigeria
Ahead of the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) scheduled for May 22-28, 2022, concerned groups led by Equity International Initiative (EII) have warned Nigeria and other sovereign nations not to sign up to proposed amendment of International Health Regulation (IHR) 2005 by the apex law making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the WHA are to determine the policies of the Organisation, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held yearly in Geneva, Switzerland.
EII, in a statement released on Tuesday and signed by its Country Director, Ambassador Chris Iyama, said IHR amendments have nothing to offer by way of strengthening WHO’s preparedness for and response to health emergencies.
Iyama said the amendment is a clandestine script for positioning of WHO as world government, legalising transfer of national sovereignty of nations to United Nations (UN) agency.
He accused the United States of submitting to the WHO a strange proposal to amend several Articles of the IHR, which may be adopted by the 75th WHA.
EII is a front line civil right, non governmental Organisation promoting participatory democracy, citizen’s inclusion, human right, electoral Reforms, Justice and rule of law.
Founded in 2018 with the sole aim of promoting Religious Freedom in Africa and across the globe. EII has championed lots civil rights engagement aimed at mobilizing citizens to take back their countries from draconian and repressive government policies and demand for accountability and open governance process (OGP)
The 75th WHA is being held in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theme of this year’s Health Assembly is: Health for peace, peace for health. Iyama said: “Our conclusion is that Nigeria and indeed all other sovereign nations should not sign up to this proposed amendment to the IHR. Should for any reason the leadership of the nation want to cast a second look at this proposal, same should be passed to the National Assembly for our elected representatives and the public to have a say on it as the clear implications of the text of this proposal has very troubling and far reaching implications for the world at large and Nigeria in particular.
“We must all remember the ill-fated Infectious disease bill ostensibly smuggled in from Singapore by the Nigerian Law makers during the COVID-19 era under the influence of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO, which sought to transfer the powers granted only to the President to the Director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). These amendments to IHR are simply the amplified version of the failed Infectious Disease Bill. The people and government of every nation should do everything possible to stop the adoption of these amendments to the IHR.”
The Control of Infectious Disease Bill was rejected because it allegedly takes away the powers of state and local governments. The bill was said to be undemocratic and its provisions are also conflicting with the constitution.
The bill, which seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926, the Nigeria National Health Act (2004), National Programme on Immunisation Act (2004,) and the Environmental Health Officers (Registration ETC) of 2002. The bill was sponsored by Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
The IHR, first adopted by the WHA in 1969 and last revised in 2005, are a legally binding rules that only apply to the WHO that is an instrument that aims for international collaboration “to prevent, protect against, control, and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks and that avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade”. The IHR is the only international legal treaty with the responsibility of empowering the WHO to act as the main global surveillance system.
In 2005, following the 2002–2004 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, several changes were made to the previous revised IHRs originating from 1969. The 2005 IHR came into force in June 2007, with 196 binding countries that recognised that certain public health incidents, extending beyond disease, ought to be designated as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), as they pose a significant global threat. Its first full application was in response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009.
The WHO, as the global primary policy maker and stakeholder in public health is the implementer of the IHR. Without any doubt, in the about 15 years of the promulgation of the IHR, at no time has the use and abuse of the legal instrument been tested as was seen since 2020/2021 during the outbreak and aftermath of the COVID-19.
However, according to critics, much as the nations of the world were looking up to the WHO for leadership and policy direction in the global effort to contain the spread of the virus, so called, signs began to emerge that the global body was leading a commercial endeavour by pharmaceutical conglomerates, non-state parties, the deep state and other non-state actors for the imposition and administration of hardly tested mixtures as vaccines as well mandating masks.
The WHO was also accused of turning itself into a global agent of powerful western capitalists whose only interest in the fight against COVID-19, was money and hegemonic domination and control of developing and third world nations.
Unfortunately, the WHO has not done anything to discourage this thinking. Rather, evidence keeps emerging of the global organisation positioning itself into a world power with a huge authority over what happens within the sovereign territory of nations.
Equity International Initiative added: “As the world is recovering from the disruptions and hardships caused by the WHO dictated measures implemented by different countries, the United States Permanent Mission to the WHO submitted to the WHO a strange proposal to amend several Articles of the IHR. Ordinarily, going by the title and introduction to the text of the proposal, one would be forgiven if it is assumed that the proposal is intended for the greater good of all and to genuinely prepare the world for future outbreaks of global infections.
“However, reading in between the lines of the texts being smuggled into the IHR and the ones proposed to be deleted from the existing law, one would clearly see the inevitably transmutation of the WHO into a totalitarian body with authority to walk across international borders without regard to rules of national sovereignty on the pretext of fighting outbreak of infection of global concern.”
It said the United States of America has put forward a proposal to amend Articles 5,6,9,10,11,12,13,15,18,48.49.53 and 59 of the IHR, 2005,by deleting text from the existing law and introducing new texts to the law.
The NGO said a careful study and review of the texts being removed from the law and the ones being introduced to the IHR clearly, very clearly show that these amendments have nothing to offer by way of ‘strengthening WHO’s preparedness for and response to health emergencies’ but a clandestine script for the positioning of the United Nations (UN) health agency as a world government and legalising the transfer of national sovereignty of nations to the WHO and a fortiori, those persons and organisations who sponsor and control it.
One Article 9, Equity International Initiative said the amendment being made to the original text of this article, proposes to remove requirement for the WHO to consult and obtain verification by nation where it is alleged that public health emergency of international concern has occurred before moving in or taking measures within or outside the country with respect to the alleged occurrence. This no doubt would be used by powerful nations and indeed, organizations to impose medicines, vaccines and measures on the citizens of nations that the people or their elected leaders are opposed to.
On Article 10, the NGO said in the text proposed to be inserted into this section, it is made a matter of compulsion of a sort for a country to accept within 48 hours, an offer for collaboration and also provide requested information by the WHO on an allegation that a health emergency of international concern has occurred or may occur in the territory of a state party.
“This proposed amendment automatically turns the WHO to a bully master of the affected nation. It is worryingly provided in the proposed amendment that a nation in which the WHO believes that a health emergency has occurred is given barely 48 hours to answer to queries from the WHO on the occurrence. This flies in the face of the sovereignty of the nations. Firstly, it is not possible to have such a response within the period of time provided and secondly and most worrisome is the fact that the nations and/or government of nations are made answerable to the head of World Health Organisation.”
On Article 10(4), it said by removing ‘may’ as it was used in the existing law and replacing it with ‘shall’ with respect to the right of state party where health emergency is reported to the WHO to exist to accept an offer for collaboration or help from the WHO, the proponents of these amendments are clearly set out to erode the powers of states to decide what health measures they allow on their citizens from the WHO and their agents and give the global body the power to side step political authority of nations in cases of alleged health emergencies. This same applies to Articles 11(2), 11(2) (e) and 11(3).
On Article 12, Equity International said under the proposed amendment being introduced here, the Director General of the WHO would become a global emperor with powers to declare a health emergency has occurred within a state party even when the national authority of the country has not made such determination or does not accept the report of the WHO on the occurrence, including allegations of potential occurrence. “This same vice is contained in the amendment in Article 12(4) (a),and the new articles 12(5) and (6) being proposed.”
On Articles 48,49,53,59, the NGO said: “Just as observed above, the true intention of the inventors of the proposed amendments to the IHR is not the positioning of the WHO to better prepare to meet the challenges to future health emergencies but to eliminate the international rule on national sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, eradication of individual right to private life and right to decide what medication one receives for illness and also the dismantling of national boundaries making the world one open place for the WHO and its sponsors to practice their medicine merchandise.”
Equity International Initiative said to sign up to these proposed amendments is for a nation to cede its sovereignty, security and rights of its citizens to the WHO and its Director General. It said authority and sovereignty must reside with the people and their elected leaders.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.