Petition End the UK’s membership of the World Health Organisation

Far from being "dedicated to the wellbeing of all people and guided by science" as it claims, we believe the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown it serves the pharmaceutical industry and not the interests of the people. We call upon the UK to withdraw from the WHO without delay.

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We are concerned that the recent amendments proposed to the WHO International Health Regulations may make it easier for the WHO to be used as a mechanism to wrest sovereignty away from democratically elected governments, by strengthening the WHO's authority to declare public health emergencies. Whilst public health is important, we cannot allow it to be used as a smokescreen to undermine our democratic rights.

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Government responded

This response was given on 4 July 2022

The Government believes the World Health Organization has a vital role in global health and views the International Health Regulations as important in protecting citizens from the spread of disease.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is the main forum for global health cooperation. Through the WHO, countries share information concerning international disease outbreaks and best practice on how to counter global health threats and emergencies. and make commitments to avoid activities which could be detrimental to health and undertake activities to promote better health.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that no-one is safe until we are all safe, and that effective global cooperation is needed to better protect the UK and other countries around the world from the detrimental health, social and economic impacts of pandemics and other health threats. Amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) are continuing, as a way of improving the framework in light of lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IHRs are an important legal framework intended to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.

Limited amendments to the IHRs were adopted at the recent WHO World Health Assembly (WHA). The only substantive amendment was to Article 59 that reduced the time parties have to reject/submit reservations to proposed future amendments from 18 to 10 months. These IHR amendments come into force for all parties, including the UK, on 31 May 2024. Should the UK wish to reject the amendments or submit a reservation to them, then the UK must do so by December 2023.

All amendments to the IHRs follow the same process. Any Member State or the WHO Director General can submit an IHR amendment to the WHA for consideration.

The WHA requires a two thirds majority to adopt any IHR amendment which come into force for all Member States, including the UK. Member States can reject amendments or submit reservations to them (within a set time period).

Should the current or a future democratically elected UK Government wish to accept an IHR amendment then amendments to domestic law may be required depending on the content of the IHR amendment. Any changes to domestic law - considered necessary or appropriate to reflect obligations under the IHR amendment - would require domestic legislation, which in turn would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny by democratically-elected parliamentarians (as well as by Members of the Lords). In all circumstances, the UK’s ability to exercise its sovereignty would remain unchanged and the UK would remain in control of any future domestic decisions about national restrictions or other measures.

Department of Health and Social Care

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