The People's Letter to the World Health Organisation
Australians, a call to action
Community advocacy group Stand Up Now Australia is calling on Aussies to communicate their rejection of the 2022 World Health Organisation's (WHO) proposed amendments to its International Health Regulations (IHR) by reading and signing The People’s Letter by Friday 1 December.
The People’s Letter, addressed to the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, voices rejection of proposed amendments which would effectively reduce the time for:
Rejection of any future amendments to the 2005 IHR from 18 months to 10 months; and
Implementation of future changes into our domestic law from 24 months to 12 months.
Taken in isolation, these amendments may not seem like a big deal. But reducing the time windows for consideration and implementation of future amendments threatens the Australian Government’s ability to properly assess future proposed amendments and consult with the public to ensure proper representation, says Stand Up Now Australia CEO, Katrina Lane.
While the proposed amendments that are the subject of The People’s Letter number only several, “There are more than 300 IHR amendments due to be tabled in early 2024,” says Lane, explaining that failure to reject amendments within the given response time is taken as tacit acceptance.
Stand Up’s legal consultants advise that, under the more than 300 draft amendments for 2024, the WHO will have the authority to order countries to lock down, require travel passes, require mandatory vaccination, and restrict travel, amongst other dictates. The draft amendments are due to be finalised in January 2024.
“If these amendments pass, either by formal or tacit acceptance, they will be legally binding,” says Lane. “The Australian Parliament will be required to comply with the WHO’s recommendations by passing legislation to bring them into effect.”
Representing the Health Minister in the Senate, Labor’s Katie Gallagher MP has previously denied that the Australian Government will be legally bound to legislate anything based on the WHO’s direction, but legal experts disagree with this assessment of the IHR terms.
Moreover, Lane questions the Government’s ability to properly review such a high volume of amendments in the proposed shorter time frames, especially since it is unclear as to whether due process has been followed in reviewing the 2022 amendments.
“Key members of the committee responsible for public consultation and review of the 2022 IHR amendments have admitted that they didn’t even know they’d signed off on them,” says Lane, who can only share this information on the proviso of maintaining anonymity of the committee members in question.
To wit, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ (JSCT) review of the 2022 amendments are buried in a report titled, Timor-Leste Cooperation in the Field of Defence and the Status of Visiting Forces.
Lane clarifies that this is not about whether the WHO is good, bad or otherwise. Rather, it’s about sovereignty. “The WHO is an advisory body. We didn’t elect them to represent us, and they have a broad brush approach to medical situations that require nuanced solutions which a global body can’t offer,” says Lane. “We are perfectly capable of governing ourselves. The cumulative IHR amendments threaten to undermine our self-governance.”
Should Australia decide against passing the 2022 IHR proposed amendments, we will join New Zealand, Estonia and Slovakia in pushing back against the WHO. While Estonia and Slovakia have rejected the amendments outright, New Zealand has postponed its acceptance of the proposed amendments to allow the newly elected government to consider them against a ‘National Interest Test.’
The People’s Letter campaign is part of a broader W.H.O. campaign, which aims to see the rejection of the IHR amendments discussed in the Letter, as well as the 300+ future amendments currently undergoing the drafting process.
Stand Up has been actively liaising with politicians from all parties on the matter of the IHR amendments and reports that the Labor government has advised that the time changes of the 2022 amendments are minor, no action should be taken, and the time reductions should apply. “This is not acceptable to us,” says Lane.
Stand Up is urging Australians to read and sign The People’s Letter before Friday 1 December, which is the final day for rejecting these particular amendments.
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