International Health Regulations and Pandemic Treaties – What Is the Deal?

David Bell

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its Member States, in concert with other international institutions, is proposing and currently negotiating two instruments to address pandemics and widely manage aspects of global public health.

Both will significantly expand the international bureaucracy that has grown over the past decade to prepare for, or respond to, pandemics, with particular emphasis on the development and use of vaccines. This bureaucracy is to be funded mainly by taxpayers and would be answerable to the WHO. In turn, the WHO has become increasingly vulnerable to influence from private individuals, corporations and large authoritarian states, through its funding and the process of electing its Director General.

If adopted, these proposed rules and structures would fundamentally change international public health. Control over significant areas, which have traditionally been the purview of elected governments answerable to the population in most constitutional democracies, could be fundamentally affected. These structures will change the balance between individual and national rights and favour the preferences of supra-national organisations not directly answerable to the people affected by their decisions.

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