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Proposed WHO Pandemic Treaty: A Global Shift in Pandemic Management

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set its sights on a new ‘instrument,’ proposing an impactful measure to oversee pandemics under international law. This initiative, under discussion since early 2021 and propelled by a special session of the WHA in November 2021, is on track for a pivotal review. A draft is slated for presentation at the Q2 2023 World Health Assembly meeting.

Strengthening WHO Powers:
The proposed treaty would grant the WHO a suite of authoritative powers, encompassing the investigation of epidemics within countries. It would further extend to endorsing or mandating border closures, potentially enforcing travel restrictions on individuals, and implementing a spectrum of measures, including but not limited to ‘lockdowns,’ disruption of daily life, and mandates regarding masks and vaccinations based on the COVID-19 precedent.

Involvement of Non-State Entities:
This new arrangement anticipates involving non-state actors, including private corporations, in data collection and predictive modeling to shape pandemic responses. Additionally, it could facilitate these entities’ engagement in executing and providing resources for the reponse, essentially integrating them into the pandemic management structure.

Implications and Concerns:
Significantly, this proposal envisions the establishment of a substantial entity within the WHO framework. This echoes Mr. Bill Gates’ recent proposal of a ‘GERM’ entity, potentially reflecting an alignment of interests between influential philanthropists and WHO objectives. The focus on pharmaceutical strategies and vertical structures aligns with initiatives from Gavi and CEPI, introducing another layer of bureaucratic hierarchy to pandemic management, detached from direct taxpayer accountability.

Process and Implementation Challenges:
The endorsement and implementation of these measures hinge on the support from both private sector funders and national governments, particularly those that have embraced stringent COVID measures. For the proposed IHR amendments, their acceptance during the WHA meeting in May 2022 appears probable unless sufficient individual countries signal non-acceptance or reservations.

Hurdles Ahead:
The proposed treaty demands a two-thirds majority at the 2023 WHA for adoption, subsequently requiring national ratification processes. Financing this substantial bureaucratic expansion necessitates additional funding, possibly redirected from existing disease areas and supplemented by new regular funding.

Divergent Perspectives and Potential Opposition:
Despite the allure of financial incentives and the promise of robust institutions for pandemic readiness, opposition and skepticism persist. Resistance may emanate from democratic donor states, wary of encroachments on autonomy and human rights, potentially sparking national-level rejections of the treaty. Alternatively, cohesive refusals from blocs of nations, perceiving this as neo-colonialism, could render these measures unviable.

Conclusion:
While these mechanisms aim to fortify global pandemic responses, their adoption and execution face multifaceted challenges. The potential economic and geopolitical ramifications, coupled with concerns about eroding sovereignty and autonomy, underscore the complexity and contentiousness surrounding these proposals. The path forward remains uncertain, teetering between enthusiastic endorsement and formidable opposition from various global stakeholders.

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