Should we be worried about the WHO treaty?


Little is as yet certain about this proposed international treaty. At the time of writing, March 2023, only the very first draft has been published. There is much concern being shared online about this, as some media have stated the World Health Organisation will have powers to impose pandemic responses and health policies onto nation states and essentially lock down the planet.

As it stands, the treaty would not give the WHO such powers outright. However, there are certainly consequences, intended or otherwise, to signing such an agreement.


Nation states signing this treaty (the UK says it’s keen to do so) agree to implement the various obligations via their own legal systems. Not all of these obligations point to a draconian control regime. Human rights and basic freedoms, for example, are to be protected by all states. They also have to ensure that pandemic control measures remain proportionate. In any country which has not already got such safeguards, the treaty could be a tool for human rights defenders.


However, the overall tone of the treaty would embed a culture of fear, where states constantly need to prepare for and rehears pandemics, educate people on the danger of diseases, combat “misinformation” and stockpile medication. This does not sound like creating a happier world. Moreover, the adopted tag line “none of us are safe until all of us are safe” seems to imply that no level of risk is ever acceptable and that as long as some are vulnerable to a disease, this is justification enough to impose measures on everyone else.


The obligation to be prepared for health crises at all times is good news for the pharmaceutical industry. Governments will have to spend more money financing research and being prepared with stockpiles against any eventuality. Here too, however, all is not bad. The treaty in its current draft would impose a duty of transparency on companies and governments. Publicly funded contracts would have to be made public, including the prices paid by governments for pharmaceutical products.

All is speculation, however, until we know what comes out of the negotiations and what a final version will look like.