Alarm over WHO global ‘power grab’

Geoff Ward
7 min readJan 21
Director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In a new survey, the WHO has come out on top as the most trusted multinational organisation. But that might change.

Ironically, just as the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in the World Health Organisation increased in 15 of 28 countries surveyed in 2022, fears grow over behind-the-scenes talks about proposed changes to the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) which, it’s claimed, could usher in a global authoritarian state.

Only one country, Japan, expressed distrust in the WHO, reveals the annual Barometer report, launched by Edelman, an international PR firm, on January 18, 2023. The report is based on an online survey of 32,000 respondents across 28 countries, measuring the levels of trust that the general public had in various institutions.

From a list, respondents were asked to indicate how much they trusted a particular institution to do what is right. The WHO was the top scorer with 67 points out of 100, against the UN (59) and the EU (56). Fieldwork was conducted in November, 2022.

The IHR negotiations took place earlier this month (January, 2023) in Geneva, Switzerland, and followed similar talks in December, 2022, about a new WHO ‘pandemic treaty’ which would be legally-binding under international law and regulate how nations prepare for and respond to future pandemic threats.

The IHR already allow the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to declare a public health emergency anywhere in the world without the consent of the government concerned, although the two parties are supposed to reach agreement first.

But taken together, the IHR and treaty proposals, if enacted, would radically alter the way in which the WHO responds to public health ‘emergencies’ worldwide, potentially enabling it to override the sovereignty of nations.

Human rights

I contacted the human rights lawyer Professor Francis Boyle, of the University of Illinois College of Law, who is among those sounding the alarm. He confirmed his opinion that the new proposals, which amounted to a ‘massive power grab’ and might violate international law, are so dangerous that the US federal and state governments should pull out of the WHO right away.

Geoff Ward

Writer, poet, tutor and mentor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature), book editor, journalist and musician.