The negotiations for the WHO Pandemic Agreement, also known as the Pandemic Treaty, have been ongoing. The most recent version of the treaty, released on October 16, 2023, is quite similar to the June 2 “Bureau Draft” of the treaty. However, there are concerns about the accuracy and effectiveness of the treaty.
Critics argue that the foundational assumptions of the treaty are flawed. They believe that the treaty aims to create a complex managerial structure with a new WHO Secretariat and Conference of the Parties, but these efforts have not been proven to prevent or respond to pandemics effectively. Instead, they may even lead to increased pandemics and the use of problematic drugs and vaccines produced hastily.
One of the main issues with the treaty is its reliance on incorrect assumptions. These include the belief that the WHO is the directing authority on international health and that international cooperation is necessary for diseases that may only affect a few countries. Additionally, the treaty assumes that nations can retain national sovereignty while being bound to obey directives from the WHO. Critics argue that this contradicts the idea of national sovereignty.
The treaty also claims that the lack of equity in sharing drugs, vaccines, and personal protective equipment (PPE) led to the failure of pandemic response. However, critics argue that no nation had sufficient PPE or tests early in the pandemic, and it was nations withholding generic drugs that caused treatment shortages, not lack of equity.
Another flawed assumption of the treaty is that pandemics invariably arise at the animal-human interface and that the vaguely defined “One Health approach” can prevent or detect them early. Critics argue that this has not been consistently true in the past.
Furthermore, the treaty assumes that increasing the capture and study of potential pandemic pathogens can be done safely and provide useful pandemic products. Critics contend that this has not been the case historically.
The treaty also includes provisions for pharmaceutical manufacturers to give up some intellectual property rights. However, a pharmaceutical manufacturers’ association has expressed a preference for no treaty rather than this one.
It is worth noting that the UN adopted a declaration on pandemic preparedness on September 20, 2023. However, this declaration was only approved by the UN Secretary-General as 11 countries objected. This raises questions about the level of consensus among UN member states.
The treaty also includes provisions for the censorship of “infodemics,” which critics argue is both legal and desirable. Additionally, the treaty requires the application of the “One Health approach,” which includes efforts related to climate change and sustainable development for health promotion.
One specific issue with the treaty highlighted is the language used in Article 3, #2 regarding sovereignty. Critics argue that the treaty fails to address the concern that the WHO may assume sovereignty for health matters over states.
In conclusion, while negotiations for the WHO Pandemic Agreement continue, there are significant concerns about the accuracy and effectiveness of the treaty. Critics argue that the foundational assumptions of the treaty are flawed and that the proposed managerial structure and directives may not effectively prevent or respond to pandemics. Additionally, there are concerns about the lack of consensus among UN member states and the potential infringement on national sovereignty.