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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union (EU) — on Monday launched a “landmark digital health partnership” marking the beginning of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) to promote a global interoperable digital vaccine passport.
Beginning this month, the WHO will adopt the EU’s system of digital COVID-19 certification “to establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats, including pandemics,” according to Monday’s announcements by the WHO and the European Commission.
WHO & @EU_Commission launch landmark digital health initiative to help protect people across the world from on-going & future health threats
This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network that will develop a wide range of digital products… pic.twitter.com/IPlxn8wAXv
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 5, 2023
The WHO and European Commission claim the GDHCN initiative, which has been in the works since 2021, “will develop a wide range of digital products to deliver better health for all.”
The organizations said the WHO will not collect individuals’ personal data via these digital passports — stating that such data collection “would continue to be the exclusive domain of governments.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lauded the new agreement:
“Building on the EU’s highly successful digital certification network, WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access to an open-source digital health tool, which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy.
“New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively.”
However, experts who spoke with The Defender said the ramifications of such a system for human liberty and freedom of movement raised concerns.
Independent journalist James Roguski told The Defender the WHO is not waiting for a successful conclusion of these negotiations in order to implement initiatives such as a global digital vaccine passport. He said:
“The announcement by the WHO and the European Commission regarding the launch of their digital health partnership was hardly a surprise. Over a month ago, the WHO quietly published that they were working on ‘operationalizing’ the very things that were being ‘negotiated.’
“This is just one example that clearly shows that the super-secret ‘negotiations’ regarding the International Health Regulations (IHR) are a charade.”
Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D., author of “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom,” told The Defender that, under the guise of preserving freedom, a digital passport system “means restraints on movement and living for the unvaccinated and forced vaccination to participate in life.”
The announcement of the WHO-European Commission collaboration came just days after the conclusion of the WHO’s annual World Health Assembly (WHA).
While the pandemic treaty and IHR amendments were not finalized at this year’s meeting, high-level WHO officials warned of the risk of a future pandemic and spread of a deadly “Disease X,” and expressed the need to “restrict personal liberties” during a future health emergency.
The EU has been a strong proponent of digital vaccine passports, first launched for its member states in late 2020 — concurrent with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines — under the name “Green Pass.” The EU’s experience with the digital passes is noted in Monday’s announcement, which states:
“One of the key elements in the European Union’s work against the COVID-19 pandemic has been digital COVID-19 certificates. To facilitate free movement within its borders, the EU swiftly established interoperable COVID-19 certificates.
“Based on open-source technologies and standards it allowed also for the connection of non-EU countries that issue certificates … becoming the most widely used solution around the world.”
Roguski told The Defender the EU also was among the strongest proponents of vaccine passports during ongoing negotiations for the WHO’s “pandemic treaty” and amendments to the IHR.
“They really want the global digital health certificate,” Roguski told The Defender in March. “Primarily, that’s coming from the European Union.”
‘Pandemic passports a death sentence for millions’
According to Roguski, the EU, during negotiations for the IHR amendments, put forth proposals that seek to “‘normalize’ the implementation of a global digital health certificate.”
The Czech Republic called for Passenger Locator Forms “containing information concerning traveller’s destination,” preferably in digital form, for the purpose of contact tracing.
They also proposed that the WHO’s Health Assembly “may adopt, in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] … and other relevant organisations, the requirements that documents in digital or paper form shall fulfill with regard to interoperability of information technology platforms, technical requirements of health documents, as well as safeguards to reduce the risk of abuse and falsification.”
The WHO lists ICAO as an officially recognized “stakeholder.”
The Czech Republic and the EU proposed documentation not just for vaccination, but “test certificates and recovery certificates” in cases “where a vaccine or prophylaxis has not yet been made available for a disease in respect of which a public health emergency of international concern has been declared.”
Plans for the WHO’s GDHCN have been in the works since at least August 2021, when the WHO released a document titled “Digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates: vaccination status: technical specifications and implementation guidance, 27 August 2021.”
“The Secretariat has developed SMART (Standards-based, Machine-readable, Adaptive, Requirements-based, and Testable) Guidelines on the digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates, comprising recommendations on the data, digital functionality, ethics, and trust architecture needed to ensure the interoperability of immunization and health records globally.”
The WHO also announced the successful completion of a “technical feasibility study for establishing a federated global trust network, which tested the ability to interoperate the health content and trust networks across existing regional efforts.”
EU officials have frequently praised themselves over the launch of the bloc’s “Green Pass,” touting how individuals’ privacy would be protected on the app. The introduction of the “Green Pass” was accompanied by statements by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling for a “discussion” on mandatory vaccinations in the EU.
One of the EU’s stated priorities as part of its 2019-2024 five-year plan is to create a “Digital Identity for all Europeans.” Namely, each EU citizen and resident would have access to a “personal digital wallet,” which would include national ID cards, birth and medical certificates, and drivers’ licenses.
These proposals and initiatives appear to be closely aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular, Target 16.9, which calls for the provision of a digital legal identity for all, including newborns, by 2030.
Tedros said the SDGs are “our north star,” while addressing this year’s WHA.
Rectenwald called “pandemic passports” a “death sentence for millions.” He told The Defender:
“Despite the studies demonstrating that vaccines to curb pandemics have been deadly and useless, the WHO is doubling down on vaccine mandates.
“Pandemic passports equal a death sentence for millions and the abrogation of rights for the non-compliant. The WHO should be stopped before it completes the construction of a global totalitarian system.”