Orange County Register: The WHO’s unchecked mission creep threatens civil liberties everywhere

This article was first published in the Orange County Register.

When you take away democratic accountability, civil liberties very quickly become a thing of the past. Our rights are being eroded, slowly but surely, by advocacy groups across the globe who, for a wide range of reasons, want to see more restrictions imposed on everyday life – but because they’re campaigning around ‘public health’ and supposedly acting in the common interest, it is very difficult to hold them accountable for what they are doing.

The World Health Organization is the leader of the pack. It has come under sharp scrutiny for the first time in a generation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. History will decide just how many of the three million coronavirus deaths around the world can be put down to the WHO’s staggering incompetence and appallingly close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

But the WHO has undergone a very troubling mission creep, allowing it to single-handedly fuel international efforts to curb civil liberties in the name of public health. From alcohol to vaping and from sugar to salt, the WHO seems to take a great deal of pleasure in cracking down on life’s small pleasures, even when the science is not at all on the side of more government intervention.

Even if we were to accept that people daring to drink alcohol or eat sugar is a terrible thing which needs to be stopped, the scientific evidence behind the WHO’s preferred methods of restricting those activities is shaky, to say the least. Nonetheless, the WHO has spent much of the past few years campaigning for tobacco tariffs, vaping restrictions, new alcohol laws and sugar and salt taxes, undeterred by the fact that their policies won’t achieve their desired outcomes and are actively harmful in a vast array of other ways.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The WHO, an arm of the United Nations, was created in order to centralize and coordinate responses to health emergencies, such as pandemics. It used to be very good at that – it was effectively responsible for the eradication of smallpox. But recently, since it adopted free rein to abandon its raison d’être begin a concerted and slightly deranged campaign lobbying against lifestyle freedom, the WHO’s $7.2 billion in annual funding seems to be going down the drain.

On communicable diseases, the area where the WHO is nominally within its rights to push for progress, it is now achieving very little. Its handling of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak was widely panned – and that’s before we get to the cataclysmic disaster that has been its leadership of the fight against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, research institutes have been teaming up with the private sector – big pharma – to fill the gaps where the WHO has been failing. The partnership between the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which produced one of the first coronavirus vaccines, has just developed a malaria vaccine which will save countless thousands of lives each year. Developments like that raise important existential questions, such as: what is the point of the WHO?

The World Health Organization is trying to play two fiddles at once. It wants to enjoy all the benefits of being a charity – unconstrained funding, no democratic checks or balances, very little direct accountability – but still exercise the power and authority of a vast international governance body, telling the democratically elected governments of sovereign countries what to do and undermining civil liberties around the world in the process. We have democratic institutions of government for a reason: so that when an instrument of the state does something wrong or harmful, we know who is responsible and are able to properly hold them to account. The WHO is trying to circumvent the proper workings of democracy by using its vast funding to interfere with domestic politics in areas well beyond its remit and where the science is not on its side. 

It’s time to stand up to this faceless bureaucratic super-state.

The reign of the interventionism enthusiasts and the red tape fetishists must come to an end.