Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

After Covid, WHO Eyes a New World Order

A proposed treaty would empower the WHO to declare pandemics whenever it wants and push the same restrictions endured these past two years.

Monkeypox is being pushed in the media. The World Health Organization is negotiating a pandemic treaty that could impact just about every country around the world, including the U.S. This is the world we live in now (an acceptable one, according to much of the expert class and the scientific technocratic priesthood) as it continues to be reshaped by Big Covid.

The prospect of a pandemic treaty should be provoking an all-hands-on-deck response to save the last vestiges of the democracies we once thought we inhabited, but there is an incredible level of ambivalence about the negotiations, among both the mainstream media and the public. Conveniently for the WHO now convening in Geneva, there is a lot to distract us—Ukraine, for one; plus, many ordinary people are tied up with thinking about how to afford to fill up their cars, or buy the usual amount of groceries needed to feed their families, or pay their mortgages without going under. 

This treaty would basically empower the WHO to declare pandemics whenever it wants and push for exactly the same restrictions endured these past two years: locking down selected countries (regardless of whether swathes of the population become impoverished by the economic consequences), stopping air travel, rolling out repeat vaccines. Given that the jury remains very much out on the effectiveness of such measures versus their harm this last go around—with many arguing they were an unmitigated disaster—it is discombobulating to see any cautionary notes discounted once again.  

“While more and more studies and real-world evidence emerges about the damage caused by lockdowns and the hasty global rollout of a new kind of vaccine, politicians seem oblivious,” Alex Klaushofer writes in a recent Substack essay. “The rush to devise a new global accord about pandemic management without allowing any time for reflection or assessment of the experimental approach that has prevailed since early 2020 shows that governments haven’t learnt the lessons of the past two years.” 

There are, Klaushofer notes, clear conflicts of interest at the heart of the treaty. It would call for increased WHO staff and offices around the world to monitor—read: more global surveillance—for outbreaks. Increased capacity makes some sense, but those jobs and salaries would depend on being seen to do something. Hence Klaushofer’s concern that the treaty will bequeath “a global pandemic industry with up to 10,000 specialist staff in corporate bodies funded by governments, companies and other organisations needing to demonstrate outcomes.”

Which of course is right up Big Pharma’s alley. We have just seen how a pandemic can result in calls for multiple novel vaccines that make a fortune for the industry. On top of that, Bill Gates heads the organization that is the second-largest contributor of the WHO’s funding. There is a lot of money wrapped up in all this.

We do not hear pushback on such entanglements from public health experts because those same experts are undermined by the same conflicts of interest. They are part of a “highly dependent workforce,” Klaushofer notes, in which salaries and the ability to provide for families, health care, and pensions are dependent on the outside organizations that provide funding approving of what the experts are doing and saying. It is the same sort of “institutional capture” that has basically corrupted, at least in terms of being able to speak openly and honestly, if the past two years are anything to go by, most of the global health industry. 

Concurrently, much of the general population appears to be caught by a psychological form of institutional capture: Covid revealed just what an astonishing level of compliance and conformity is out there nowadays. The complex reasons behind that are still to be fully unpacked. One theory calls it “mass formation” and explains it through a reaction to a sense of meaninglessness, fear, and general anxiety saturating modern societies. 

Whatever the reasons, even governments were surprised by the scale of the conformity and the resulting compliance: So we can actually do this, close down entire societies regardless the terrible knock-on consequences, tell everyone to dehumanize themselves—especially little obnoxious children—by wearing masks and not touching their loved ones or having sex, and people go along with it…. Huh, wouldn’t have thought it would be so easy.

And you have not helped—I am talking about you, America, the apparent bastion of representative democracy. While you remain “the leading light in the fight for freedom,” in the words of Sherelle Jacobs, a columnist for the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph who recently toured the southern U.S., a country that “pulsates with a visceral love of liberty, and a raw faith in individual flourishing,” since 2016 the world has watched a particularly unedifying “intellectual battle raging in America over the very meaning of freedom itself.” 

This has included, Jacobs argues, “an important shift from a ‘negative’ idea of liberty, which emphasises individual freedom from outside interference, to a more ‘positive’ conception which aims for a higher state of collective enlightenment.” But this is the sort of “positive” liberty we experienced these past two years, in which freedom took on the form of a “socio-economic outcome to be engineered by a benevolent state” while “handing unprecedented power to bureaucratic elites” and “ushering in terrifying levels of state surveillance and control.”

As Alexander Zubatov describes in his recent TAC essay, “The LGBTsQewing of America,” the complex interplay of environment, shifting social mores, and societal examples all goes toward shaping how each of us views the world, responds, and behaves in it. And the U.S. has been giving off some particularly un-American examples to the world in relation to the classical definition of liberty upon which it was hitherto assumed to be founded. 

Is the pandemic treaty really such a risk, though, given the fact that dealing with a global pandemic clearly requires cooperation and coordination? As Klaushofer notes, it is not easy to parse the true risks given that what coverage there is about the treaty ranges from newswire pieces that “make the agreement sound anodyne and technical” to “screaming about an imminent global coup by the World Economic Forum.” For now, she says, legal experts disagree about the status of what might be agreed; most of the treaty’s terms appear to be non-binding, plus the good folk behind it acknowledge “national sovereignty” as a limitation on the treaty’s effect, while any treaty takes time to negotiate and ratify. 

But the critical underlying point remains. As Michael Senger, an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World, put it: “Its passage is a ratification and approval of everything the world has experienced over the past two years during Covid-19. By signing onto the Pandemic Treaty, our leaders are signalling their approval for all this—and more—to be done again.”

James Jeffrey is a freelance journalist and writer who splits his time between the US, the UK, and further afield, and writes for various international media. Follow him on Twitter: @jrfjeffrey and at his website: www.jamesjeffreyjournalism.com.