The World Health Organization (WHO) is moving forward with plans to enact an international pandemic preparedness treaty, despite running into opposition earlier this summer after dozens of countries, mainly outside the Western world, objected to the plan.
A majority of WHO member states on July 21, 2022, during a meeting of the WHO’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) agreed to seek a legally binding instrument containing “legally binding and non-binding elements.”
The agreement, which would create a new global framework for responding to pandemics, as “the most transformative global health call to action since WHO itself was formed as the first specialized agency of the United Nations in 1948.”
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum, the African Union and the World Bank, which created a $1 billion fund for “disease surveillance” and “support against current and future pandemics,” are developing their own pandemic response mechanisms, including new vaccine passport mechanisms between countries.
The WHO ‘pandemic treaty’: what has been proposed and what would it mean?
Ongoing discussions to formulate a new or revised “pandemic treaty” are based on the existing international framework for global pandemic response, the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR), which are considered a binding instrument of international law.
On December 1, 2021, in response to calls from several governments for a “strengthened global pandemic strategy” and noting the urgency with which these entities are acting, WHO formally launched the process of creating a new treaty or amendment to the International Health Regulations (IHR) during a Special Session – only the second in the organization’s history.
During the meeting, held May 10-11, WHO’s 194 member countries unanimously agreed to launch the process, which had previously been discussed only informally.
Member countries agreed to “Initiate a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to “strengthen” pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”
The IHR, a relatively recent development, was first enacted in 2005 in the wake of SARS-CoV-1.
The IHR legal framework is one of only two binding treaties that WHO has achieved since its inception, the other being the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The IHR framework already allows the WHO director general to declare a public health emergency in any country, without the consent of that country’s government, although the framework requires that the two parties first attempt to reach agreement.
Proposals for a new or revised pandemic treaty, presented at the WHO’s special ministerial session in May, would strengthen the WHO’s pandemic-related powers, including the establishment of a “Compliance Committee” that would issue advisory recommendations to states.
However, according to the Daily Skeptic , while the IHR is already legally binding, the amendments proposed in May would not strengthen existing legal obligations or requirements:
“Existing treaty regulations, like all (or most) international law, don’t actually oblige states to do anything more than talk to and listen to WHO, nor do they specify penalties for non-compliance; almost all of their output is advice.
“The proposed amendments do not alter that. They do not allow the WHO to unilaterally impose legally binding measures on or within countries.”
One of the risks arising from negotiations for a new or updated treaty includes the possible codification of “the new orthodoxy of blockades or quarantines for future pandemics,” which would “replace the sound, science-based, pre-COVID recommendations” previously in place.
Such a treaty would give WHO “absolute power over global biosecurity, such as the power to implement digital identities/vaccine passports, mandatory vaccinations, travel restrictions, standardized medical care and more.”
A “one-size-fits-all approach to pandemic response” is also questionable, noting that “pandemic threats are not identical in all parts of the world.
Thirty-six countries and international organizations participated in a July meeting aimed at “creating a multilateral framework for establishing a global vaccine passport regime.”
The development is a continuation of efforts involving WHO to monitor global vaccine passport regimes.
In February 2022, WHO selected Germany’s T-Systems as an “industry partner to develop the vaccine validation service,” which would allow “verification of vaccination certificates across national borders.” T-Systems, a branch of Deutsche Telekom, was previously instrumental in developing the interoperability of vaccine passport systems in Europe.
Also in July 2022, 21 African governments “quietly adopted” a vaccine passport system, which in turn would also be interconnected with other similar systems globally.
On July 8, which is also Africa Integration Day, the African Union and the African Centers for Disease Control launched a digital vaccine passport valid throughout the African Union, describing it as “the e-health backbone” of Africa’s “new health order.”
This follows the development in 2021 of the Trusted Travel platform , now required by several African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Togo and Zimbabwe, and airlines such as EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, for both inbound and outbound travel.
Beyond Africa, Indonesia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20, is undertaking “pilot projects” that would generate interoperability of the various digital vaccine passport systems currently in use around the world. The project is expected to be completed in November, in time for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.
South African company Cassava Fintech is set to develop an interoperable Africa-wide vaccine passport.
A subsidiary of African telecommunications company Econet, Cassava initially developed the ” Sasail ” app, which the company described as Africa’s first “global super app” that combines “social payments” with the ability to send and receive money and pay bills, chat with others. and play games.
Cassava and Econet entered into a strategic partnership with Mastercard, “to promote digital inclusion in Africa and collaborate on a variety of initiatives, including the expansion of the Africa CDC TravelPass.”
Mastercard supports the Good Health Pass vaccine passport initiative that is also backed by the ID2020 alliance and endorsed by embattled former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Mastercard has also promoted technology that can be integrated into the DO Card , a credit/debit card that tracks a person’s “personal carbon allowance.”
ID2020, founded in 2016, claims to support “ethical and privacy-protective approaches to digital identification.” Its founding partners include Microsoft, the Rockefeller Foundation , Accenture, GAVI-The Vaccine Alliance (itself a WHO core partner), UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank.
Mastercard’s two largest shareholders are Vanguard and BlackRock, which have significant stakes in dozens of companies that supported the development of vaccine passports or implemented vaccination mandates for their employees. The two investment firms also have large stakes in vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson among many other laboratories and corporations.
Mastercard provides funding for the World Bank’s Identity for Development (ID4D) Program, which “focuses on promoting digital identification systems to improve development outcomes.”
The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York Law School recently described the ID4D program, which touts its alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as one that could pave the way for a ” digital road to hell ” . “
According to the center, this would come about through the prioritization of “economic identity” and the use of an infrastructure that has “been linked to gross and massive human rights violations” in several countries.
Mastercard is also active in Africa through its joint initiative with another fintech (financial technology) company, Paycode, to “increase access to financial services and government assistance for remote communities across Africa” through a biometric identity system containing the data of 30 million people.
World Bank, WHO promote ‘pandemic preparedness’, vaccine passports
The World Bank announced in late June the creation of a fund that will “finance investments to strengthen the fight against pandemics” and “support prevention, preparedness and response…with a focus on low- and middle-income countries.”
The fund was developed under the leadership of the U.S., Italy and current G20 chair Indonesia, “with broad G20 support,” and will be active by the end of this year.
It will provide more than $1 billion in funding for areas such as “disease surveillance” and “support against current and future pandemics.”
WHO is also a “stakeholder” in the project and will provide “technical expertise,” according to the WHO director general.
The agreement follows a 2019 strategic partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum to “accelerate” the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.
Although the agreement has recently circulated on social media, it was announced in June 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It covers six focus areas, including “health” (mandatory vaccines) and “digital control.”
In turn, the “digital cooperation” promoted by the agreement will supposedly “meet the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution while seeking to advance global analysis, dialogue and standards for digital governance and digital inclusion.”
However, despite the rhetoric preaching “inclusivity,” individuals and entities that have refused to accept applications such as vaccine passports have faced persecution in their personal and professional lives.
Such was the example of a Canadian doctor who was fined $6,255 in June for refusing to use the country’s ArriveCAN health information application, which is under investigation for privacy issues, to enter the country.
Dr. Ann Gillies said she was fined when she re-entered Canada after attending a conference in the US.
Andrew Bud, CEO of biometric identification company iProove, a contractor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, described the vaccine certificates as driving “the whole field of digital identification in the future,” adding that “it’s not just COVID [but] something much bigger” and that “once adopted for COVID [they] will quickly be used for everything else.”
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