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Unpacking Tucker Carlson on WHO’s “Pandemic Treaty” (So-Called)

“But you gotta know the territory.” –Meredith Willson, The Music Man

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I hold no brief for WHO’s performance during the Covid pandemic, as readers know. Here’s WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and several other functionaries, modeling proper masking behavior for the world:

Surgical masks. Not N95s. Good Lord. Just appalling. However, WHO’s performance has bigger problems than ignorance — one hopes not malice — at the managerial level. From the British Medical Journal:

Global cooperation in response to the covid-19 pandemic has failed. Despite an established World Health Organisation (WHO) framework for early outbreak responses—the International Health Regulations, which require states to implement pathogen surveillance, detection, and alerts, and accurate public health communications—most states were sluggish and uncoordinated in their collective responses to covid-19…. States have remained divided in their response to covid-19 which has risked and likely cost millions of lives…. It is in this context that the World Health Assembly accepted a recommendation to negotiate and draft a pandemic treaty. It is down to member states of the WHO—comprising nearly all the countries in the world—to adopt the treaty.”

So it makes sense for international institutions — that is, if you believe they can play a useful role, as not all do — to initiate a process to improve the mechanisms for global co-operation available to them. From the London School of Economics:

After the multiple governance failures of the pandemic, the international community agreed at a Special Session of the World Health Assembly (WHASS) on the need to draft a convention, agreement or other international instrument for pandemic preparedness and response. An intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) was established to draft it under the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO).

(I won’t belabor this point, but the INB’s deliverable need not be a “treaty” per se; it can be a “a convention, agreement or other international instrument.” But we have to call it something, and “pandemic treaty” is as good as anything else. The United States, incidentally, has opposed a “binding treaty.”) The meeting of the World Health Assembly this week was the occasion for Tucker Carlson’s Opinion: “Tucker: Biden administration is close to giving WHO power over every intimate aspect of your life” (transcript), the topic of this post.

I have to give Carlson credit for doing the Lord’s work in nobbling the Biden Administraiton’s wacky proposal for a DHS. But this opinion is a bit of a Gish Gallop. To done my yellow waders, I’d have to have mastered the intricacies of WHO’s governance and drafting process, which I have not yet done (nor has Carlson, as we shall see). So I’m going to focus only on two of Carlson’s paragraphs, one on the “treaty” adoption process, the other on potential loss of national sovereignty. Having, in a past life, participated in the development of international standards, I’m going to be persnickety. (I’m not going to focus on Carlson’s irritable mental gestures; for example, it worries me more that Bill Gates, squillionaire, probably has more clout as a donor at WHO than most nation states, than that Tedros, like Buttigieg’s father (and Harris’s), is a [gasp] “Marxist,” whatever that might mean to Carlson. Nor will I focus on other conservative luminaries like Michelle Bachmann or Marco Rubio.)

(1) The “Treaty” Adoption Process

Carlson says (and I would be super-happy if FOX turned off autoplay so I didn’t have to actually hear him saying it):

This January[1], the Biden administration submitted a series of proposed amendments to something called the International Health Regulations (the IHR)[2]. Now[3], the Biden administration’s amendments, along with those from several other countries, will be combined[4] to create a new global pandemic treaty[5]. “We need a pandemic treaty.” That treaty is set to be adopted starting this weekend in Geneva at the World Health Assembly[6].

Here are the problems I can find with this paragraph:

[1] The proposed amendments (here) were accepted on 12 April 2022, which is when they became part of the formal amendments process, a more relevant date.

[2] The amendments were submitted to WHO (see the WHO logo on the stationery). The amendments could not have been submitted to the International Health Regulations, because they are just that: regulations.

[3] No, they won’t. The Biden administration’s amendments are not even on the agenda for the current World Health Assembly meeting.

[4] There’s no reason at all to think this “will” happen. First, the IHR and the “Pandemic Treaty” are different documents under the control of different entities; “it is not yet clear how the 2005 regulations and the new pandemic treaty might fit together.” Second, the “Pandemic Treaty” will be the result of interminable sausage-making, and even if the United States submits its IHR amendments to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body there’s no guarantee of what “will” happen.

[5] I said I wouldn’t belabor “treaty” so I won’t.

[6] Only by stretching the word “starting” to absurd lengths can this statement be construed as anything like true. Here is the schedule according to the UK House of Commons:

According to the WHO, the following are key dates in the progress of the treaty.

The INB will host its second round of public consultation hearings on 16-17 June 2022.

The INB will meet by 1 August 2022 to discuss and consider a working draft treaty.

The INB will deliver a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023.

The INB will submit its outcome for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.

So, “starting” on this weekend in 2022, indeed. “Submitted for consideration” in 2024, which is absolutely nowhere near “adopted,” since WHO could send the draft back to the INB for a rework. Come on. (Granted that this schedule, in fact, very rapid for an international organization, whose progress tends to be more stately.)

Needless to say, that’s a lot to get wrong in one paragraph.

(2) Potential Loss of National Sovereignty

For newer readers, let me establish my bona fides by showing how vehemently I was opposed to the loss of national sovereignty under another globalist project, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); see here, here, and here. Onward to Carlson:

Carlson says:

Now, the Biden administration has made certain that unelected bureaucrats, the W.H.O., have total authority to declare and define public health emergencies[1]. They did it explicitly. The White House eliminated a provision that would have required the World Health Organization to “consult with an[d] attempt to obtain verification from the state party in whose territory the event is allegedly occurring in.”[2]

[1] Looking through the Biden Administration’s amendments, States have sole power under Article 6 (page 5) to notify WHO of “all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern within its territory.” Upon notification, under Article 12 (page 8) “the Director-General shall determine, on the basis of information received, in particular from the State Party within whose territory an event is occurring, whether an event constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.” These texts are not amended by the United States.

[2] Here is the full context for Carlson’s quote in the Biden Administration’s amendments (means deletion and ).

Article 9: Other reports

1. WHO may take into account reports from sources other than notifications or consultations and shall assess these reports according to established epidemiological principles and then communicate information on the event to the State Party in whose territory the event is allegedly occurring. Before taking any action based on such reports, WHO shall consult with and attempt to obtain verification from the State Party in whose territory the event is allegedly occurring in accordance with the procedure set forth in Article 10. To this end, WHO shall make the information received available to the States Parties and only where it is duly justified may WHO maintain the confidentiality of the source. This information will be used in accordance with the procedure set forth in Article 11.

I think Carlson’s argument is that the Biden Administration’s deletion is an end-run around the requirements in Articles 6 and 12 that only notifications from States can trigger the Director-General’s determination of a public health emergency. First, the unamended wording clearly already permits that (“WHO may take into account reports from sources other than notifications”). Second, the Biden Administration’s deletion may, in fact, be aimed at China (and possibly even be a poison pill, if indeed the Administration opposes a “binding treaty”). One of the chief features of Covid’s early days in China was whistleblowers and scientists trying desperately o get the word out to the international community. By eliminating the requirement to “obtain verification from the State Party,” the Biden deletions “explicitly” would have empowered those whistleblowers. Third, I have to ask what the concrete impact of the amendment would be, other than more information. From Article 10, “Verification”:

When WHO receives information of an event that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern, it shall offer to collaborate with the State Party concerned in assessing the potential for international disease spread, possible interference with international traffic and the adequacy of control measures. Such activities may include collaboration with other standardsetting organizations and the offer to mobilize international assistance in order to support the national authorities in conducting and coordinating on-site assessments. … If the State Party does not accept the offer of collaboration , WHO may, when justified by the magnitude of the public health risk, share with other States Parties the information available to it, whilst encouraging the State Party to accept the offer of collaboration by WHO, taking into account the views of the State Party concerned.

Taking it all together, in my reading the Biden amendments are designed to decrease the possibility that a State may suppress information about a potential pandemic within its borders. Is that so very bad? Certainly China did this, and certainly Carlson, correctly, considers that wrong.


International Affairs, in “The futility of the pandemic treaty: caught between globalism and statism,” provides the following 30,000-foot view:

To put the point simply, the content of the pandemic treaty currently being proposed is at its heart a globalist project…

Which is, I would urge, the real issue for conservatives, and not without reason.

… seeking to improve health for all, allow equity in preparedness for and response to future pandemics, and asserting at its core the universality of human populations. Even within states we see tension between health and development ministries, and between cabinets and foreign ministries, on such issues. Championing solidarity and equity requires states to depart from state-centric policy-making and focus on the global, something states have been unable or unwilling to do in global health governance to date, and indeed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until such tension between statist reality and globalist ideals is addressed, any pandemic treaty will remain impossible to implement. To move forward, rich countries must answer the question of what they are willing to give up nationally in order to be better prepared internationally for future pandemics. Statist policy-making during COVID-19 has shown the answer to be: not much.

TPP, the globalist’s chef d’oeuvre, went down to defeat. The Biden Administration’s current trade proposals in Asia do not resemble TPP at all (though the sausage-making has hardly begun). Yves credits the superb work of Public Citizen — and Lori Wallach, especially — for that defeat. Wallach was the absolute mistress of detail on TPP; her voice became 100% authoritative across the political spectrum, including globalists and statists. Tucker Carlson, even without putting aside his virtues, is not such a voice, as I believe I have shown in this post. Perhaps such a voice will emerge. The “pandemic treaty” certainly needs one.



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