Marta Gameiro organised a conference in Fátima last October, intended to "give space to contradictions over how the Covid-19 pandemic was run in Portugal"

Portuguese petition launched to opt out of WHO’s polemic Pandemic Preparedness Treaty

Aims to reach 60,000 signatures; calls for referendum

A little-publicised petition has been launched in Portugal to try and draw people’s attentions to the World Health Organisation’s Treaty on Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention before countries sign up to it.

The text explains that “critics of this new treaty point out that if approved, it would grant unlimited powers to the WHO, which is not a body with democratically elected officials and which, in the event of a new pandemic, could override government directives and even countries’ constitutions.

“In addition, around three hundred amendments to the International Health Regulations are planned, including the suspension of human rights in situations of Public Health crisis

“In short, with these global regulations, the ability of countries to make autonomous decisions in a future public health emergency will be even more limited, as will the ability of citizens to defend themselves against discretionary measures that affect human rights”.

Dentist Marta Gameiro believes the issue is much too serious to be screened from public debate – but screened it appears to be: very few media sources refer to this treaty, to the discussions ongoing about it – and almost no outlet gives news of efforts being made, behind the scenes, to alert populations to the possible implications.

Ms Gameiro’s petition begins with three questions, including the wider “should Portugal remain a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) while this agency, subordinate to the United Nations, gets most of its funding from foundations and private entities?

She tells Página Um online that questioning Portugal’s permanence in WHO was perhaps a “big risk”, but, in the wake of Covid-19, it is important for people to be aware of how connected governments, the WHO and other organisations can be to “the lucrative pharmaceutical sector”. 

According to Portuguese law, a referendum by popular initiative needs to gather 60.000 signatures in a maximum of six months, she explains. So far, the petition has mustered only 1,258 signatures – and the last word falls to Members of Parliament whose interest up till now has been practically non-existent.

The main objective of the petition “Referendum for self-determination in Health – Portugal and the WHO” is the “promotion of a debate”, Gameiro explains.

What is at stake is the possibility of an elite taking over an organisation that is supposed to be independent“, she tells Página Um, alluding, says the online, “to the WHO’s links to the pharmaceutical sector and private foundations with commercial interests”.

It has to be stressed that the WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus assured a press conference in March that the proposals under consideration “will never eliminate the sovereignty of countries in the event of a new pandemic.

“It is essential to emphasize that this agreement is being negotiated by countries, for countries, and will be adopted and implemented by countries in accordance with their own national laws,” said the former Ethiopian Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs , adding that “the assertion by some that this agreement is a violation of national sovereignty is manifestly wrong. Countries, and only countries, will decide what is in the agreement, not WHO staff”.

But fears of loss of sovereignty and suspension of human rights in case of new pandemics remain – not least because of measures put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic (many of which have since proved to have had no scientific basis whatsoever), and the fact that Portugal itself is considering changes to its constitution in terms of Public Health which could, media sources have said, see people forcibly detained if ‘deemed a health risk’ (whether or not they actually are a health risk…)

As Marta Gameiro warns, some of the proposals (in the Treaty) widen the scope of emergencies to include potential harm instead of actual harm“. 

Others relate to “a definition of ‘One Health’ “that encompasses any occurrence in the biosphere that may have an impact on human well-being”, she says.

The petition text also addresses the potentially excessive “decision-making power (that) will be placed in the hands of a single person, the director-general of the WHO”, suggesting the intention could be “to suppress and censor voices of those who question the dictates of the director-general”.

Marta Gameiro is also the promoter of another similar petition, but which did not question Portuguese membership of the WHO, and gathered 7.317 signatures.

This petition has already been dealt with, in a first phase, in a hearing of the Health Commission of the Assembly of the Republic on February 16, says Página Um.

The online adds that “the parliamentary commission responsible for the appreciation of  (the first petition) has not yet concluded the process”, while the subject itself “has been treated with little relevance by the members of the various parties”. The petition, for example, has not even scheduled for discussion in the House.

Elsewhere, a number of voices have spoken out against the WHO’s focus on this Treaty. But in the hurly burly of current events, very little has bobbed to the surface in the mainstream.

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