The Biden administration recently proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations that would have dramatically expanded the scope and authorities of the World Health Organization (WHO), an international organization with no transparency, no accountability to the U.S. or anyone else, a pro-Communist China leadership and an abysmal track record. Pictured: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO (left) shares a moment with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on January 28, 2020. (Photo by Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images)
Recently the World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing organization of the World Health Organization (WHO), met to discuss and evaluate proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations. This document sets the legal framework for how countries respond to public health outbreaks that can cross borders and the broad range of responsibilities for the WHO in response. Amazingly, it was the Biden administration that proposed the set of amendments that would have dramatically expanded the scope and authorities of the WHO.
Rep. Chris Smith, the ranking member of the House Global Health Subcommittee, warned:
"The alarming amendments offered by the Biden Administration to the WHO's International Health Regulations would grant new unilateral authority to [WHO] Director-General Tedros to declare a public health crisis in the United States or other sovereign nations, without any consultation with the U.S. or any other WHO member.
"Specifically, the Biden Amendment would strike the current regulation that requires the WHO to 'consult with and attempt to obtain verification from the State Party in whose territory the event is allegedly occurring in,' ceding the United States' ability to declare and respond to an infectious disease outbreak within the United States, dependent on the judgment of a corrupt and complicit UN bureaucracy."
Just as amazingly, the amendments failed to be accepted at the WHA meeting. Instead, future amendments and potentially a future International Pandemic Treaty were pushed out into the future. The delay was declared by some to be a huge win. Color me skeptical. I believe that the time will be used to develop and market even more diabolical policies. Now is not the time to take a victory lap, it is the time to be ever vigilant.
In January of 2022, the Biden Administration quietly proposed thirteen amendments to be considered by the WHA. There was no notification to the U.S. Congress on the amendments, which would have significantly enhanced the WHO's power. For example, experts believed that the language would have enabled the WHO director to unilaterally declare a "pandemic" or "serious health status" within any country without providing the country a chance to respond or advising the WHO prior to a declaration. Instead, the director would unilaterally establish the parameters and basis for the decision.
Similar to the U.S. Disinformation Board that the Department of Homeland Security recently proposed, the WHO would now also be empowered to combat supposed disinformation and misinformation. It is disconcerting that governmental institutions and international organizations are seeking the power and public resources to combat what they determine to be misinformation; it is a development that should concern us all.
The Biden Administration alarmingly wanted to give this power to an international organization with no transparency, no accountability to the U.S. or anyone else, and an abysmal track record of disregarding warnings from Taiwan about the human-to-human transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus and instead colluded with the Chinese Communist Party in lying to the world about the danger of the virus while the CCP shut down domestic travel but encouraged foreign travel.
The good news is that these amendments have not been adopted. The WHA basically tabled the amendments for potential future consideration. Instead, it created a working group to further develop and consider those and other amendments. It also will begin work on a new International Pandemic Treaty. Expectations are already being created for what the result of these actions should be: unsettlingly, they seek to expand on the authorities the Biden Administration was prepared to concede to the WHO.
For example, a group of UN experts already has set the expectation that "ongoing multilateral negotiations on a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and recovery is grounded in human rights." What that means is not clear, but if these experts use as a model the UN Human Rights Commission, a scandal-plagued and ineffective commission at best, we will be in serious trouble.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the largest manufacturer of vaccines (by volume), already has laid out some of his ideas. Among them, he wants the sharing of intellectual property, global agreement on regulatory standards, and universal travel vaccine certificates on a digital platform. He goes on to explain either implicitly or explicitly that these types of activities could be regulated by international organizations, such as the WHO.
Unfortunately, what is being proposed here, beginning with the Biden Administration amendments, is an international organization whose leadership would have the ability to:
- Identify independently what constitutes a pandemic or serious health concern;
- Would define the rationale for such a designation;
- Would be funded to combat "misinformation" and "disinformation";
- Would establish the values (e.g., human rights) that would define how the pandemic would be addressed;
- Would define how intellectual property would be shared and who controls it;
- Would implement and manage global regulatory standards; and
- Would develop a universal travel vaccine certification on a digital platform.
These proposals would be only the tip of the iceberg. At the moment, the plan has all the earmarks of empowering and funding an untransparent, unaccountable, un-removeable behemoth. Just imagine what other schemes these globalist bureaucrats may be envisioning as they begin the process of creating this new monster global health apparatus. There is little room for national sovereignty, and even less consideration for individuals making their own choices.
While some critics have expressed skepticism and that these concerns are overblown, this isn't just a perceived or manufactured threat to the freedom of American citizens and the sovereignty of the U.S. The Biden Administration and allies in Europe and Asia were all on board for the initial package of amendments. Imagine the surprise that the coalition that stopped this from happening was more than 40 countries on the continent of Africa and Brazil. Ironically, China, which in many respects controls the WHO, also wasn't fully on board.
For China, the current model works. The WHO has limited powers that can be used effectively to China's benefit as long as its leadership is pro-China. If the WHO leadership goes against China, China can just block them. Under the new proposals for the WHO, with a neutral or anti-China bias, China would be extremely vulnerable because the WHO could take action unilaterally. China might be thinking why fix something that, from their perspective, is not broken.
Despite the setback, the WHO and its supporters are still using the global COVID pandemic as the impetus to make these types of proposals reality. For those opposed, here are some steps that can and should be taken. A more than solid case can be made that the WHO failed spectacularly in the current crisis. There must be a laser-like focus pointing out how the WHO's actions were politicized and its recommendations were many times deeply flawed. Further, Americans must demand that Congress do thorough investigations of the WHO and U.S. funding going to the organization. Those should be complemented by continued efforts to encourage more whistleblowers to expose additional shortcomings or scandals involving the WHO.
The American people must demand full transparency from the Biden Administration and future administrations, as they participate in ongoing discussions around the International Health Regulations and the International Pandemic Treaty -- and any another other untransparent and unaccountable transnational organizations. This year, the current administration, by secretive actions, almost got away with yet another capitulation to Communist China that would have seriously weakened America. The U.S. Senate also needs to be more vigilant in its congressional oversight function of treaties. This vigilance by both the Senate and the public must start now, it cannot wait until proposals are finalized. That is too late.
This is a critical issue to the future of every American citizen and our country. Will the U.S. maintain control of its well-being and sovereignty, and those of our allies, or put our trust in failed international organizations? It is imperative that everyone understand the immense importance and associated risks of such a decision.
Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently Chairman of the Center for Security Policy Board of Advisors.