On Saturday, the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) released a statement claiming: “Governments make progress towards agreeing amendments to the International Health Regulations.”
However, as Dr. Meryl Nass pointed out, the main point about this statement is that WHO declared it will not share the finalised International Health Regulations (“IHR”) amendments with the public and member states four months before the vote on it in May 2024 as WHO’s own rules require.
“WHO’s press release states what happened in very general terms, so only the already-initiated will understand it,” Dr. Nass said.
Here are the relevant statements within WHO’s press release:
We will continue work on a range of issues in the inter-sessional period before WGIHR6, as well as in early 2024.
The Co-Chairs noted that, in reference to Decision WHA75(9), it appeared unlikely that the package of amendments would be ready by January 2024. In this regard, the Working Group agreed to continue its work between January and May 2024. The Director-General will submit to the 77th Health Assembly the package of amendments agreed by the Working Group.
Governments make progress towards agreeing amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005), World Health Organisation, 7 October 2023
Dr. Nass explained what happened:
Article 55 of the WHO Constitution requires that amendments to WHO documents be offered to the member states and public 4 months in advance of a vote.
The Saudi co-chair said to the public that his Working Group on the IHR amendments may not complete their work by January needed to meet the timeline to be voted on in May 2024. In a choreographed move, he asked Principal Legal Officer Steven Solomon what to do about this. Solomon had already crafted a plan. His plan was to create a specious excuse to ignore the existing rules.
Nobody voted on ignoring them. Nobody said this was okay. It just became a done deal.