Petition End the UK’s membership of the World Health Organization
The World Health Organisation is not a democratically elected body and we are concerned about the powers WHO may be given over Sovereign Nations in the future.
We think that ending the UK’s membership of the World Health Organisation is important for the sovereign governance of our country.
This response was given on 17 November 2023
The UK Government will not end our WHO membership. We are committed to working with the WHO to tackle the world’s health issues. We do not and will never cede sovereign powers through our partnership.
Read the response in full
The UK continues to have a strong relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), which, as the United Nation’s specialised agency for health, and the world’s main technical and co-ordinating body in global health, has a vital role to play in supporting public health globally. The Government will not end the UK’s WHO membership.
The WHO is a Member State-led organisation and works on a wide range of technical health areas. These areas are agreed with Member States, including the UK, in advance and are based on our collective health needs and priorities; they are outlined in the WHO’s General Programme of Work (GPW) which are adopted and reviewed regularly by Member States. The current GPW runs from 2019 to 2024; the UK, amongst other Member States, is engaged in the development of the next GPW which will run from 2025 to 2029.
The WHO is the cornerstone of global health cooperation. It is through the WHO that Member States share with each other information on disease outbreaks around the world, share best practice on how to counter health threats and emergencies, and make commitments to each other to undertake activities to promote health and to avoid activities which could be detrimental to health.
The UK has long partnered with the WHO and its Member States to tackle the world’s most pressing health challenges. The UK continues to engage with the WHO, including on improving the global health system so the world better prepares and responds to future health emergencies. The UK is also an active attendee at the WHO governing body meetings including the WHO World Health Assembly and the WHO Executive Board. The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision-making body of the WHO; it is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by Member States on the Executive Board. The UK is a rotating member of the WHO Executive Board including most recently until May 2023, and we use these opportunities to hold WHO to account for delivering the General Programme of Work and other commitments.
The Government wants to best protect the UK population including from future pandemics. 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.
The best way to protect the UK from the next pandemic is by ensuring all Member States can contain and respond to disease outbreaks through compliance with International Health Regulations (IHR). Therefore, the Government is supporting the processes of negotiating an Accord on pandemic preparedness and response, and agreeing targeted amendments of the IHR as a means of strengthening preparedness for and in response to future health emergencies.
The Pandemic Accord is intended to prevent and tackle pandemic threats, whereas the IHR is a technical framework, the purpose and scope of which is to prevent, protect against, control, and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease. Both processes aim to strengthen global health coordination, cooperation and mutual accountability to address the weaknesses seen in global health security during the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent health emergencies.
Both negotiations processes are led by Member States. No content of the Pandemic Accord or amendments to the IHR have been agreed yet. The two processes are separate but are intended to complement each other in supporting improvements to global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Member States have agreed to finalise the Accord and IHR amendments to be submitted to the WHA in May 2024. The UK is an active participant in both processes and we will continue to work with our international partners to achieve a good outcome for the UK.
The Pandemic Accord and amendments to the IHR must be adopted by Member States at the WHA for them to then come into force as a matter of international law for all Member States. The proposed amendments to the IHR, current and previous drafts of the Pandemic Accord, and relevant papers including reports from both processes are available publicly on the WHO website.
Throughout both negotiations, the UK has been and will continue to be clear that we would not agree any amendments to the IHR or sign up to an Accord that would cede sovereignty to the WHO in relation to making domestic decisions on national measures concerning public health, such as, domestic immunisation programme rollouts and other similar measures.
Any new or amended domestic legislation necessary to reflect new international obligations under the IHR or the Accord would be made through the applicable parliamentary process. In all circumstances, the sovereignty of the UK Parliament would remain unchanged.
Department of Health and Social Care
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