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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — WHO plans for Global Digital Health Certificate

I call for a debate on the World Health Organization’s digital health initiative, which was recently launched. While the aim of this strategy may appear noble on the surface, it is essential we carefully consider the risks it poses to civil liberties, personal autonomy and the sovereignty of European Union member states. The WHO states it is going to take up the European Union system of digital Covid-19 certificates to establish a global system that will help to facilitate global mobility and protect citizens throughout the world from ongoing and future health threats. When the people of Ireland agreed to EU Covid-19 passports, they did not also consent to those data being retained and used to create a general purpose global medical identification.

It goes on to state that this is the first building block of the WHO global digital health certificate network. This is a sure-fire infringement of our civil liberties. Digital health initiatives necessitate the collection and storage of vast amounts of personal data. While the protection of public health is undoubtedly important, we must not allow this pursuit to come at the expense of our fundamental right to privacy and autonomy. The potential for abuse or misuse of personal data can never be taken lightly as it can all too easily lead to surveillance, profiling and the erosion of individual freedoms.

At a personal level, placing excessive controls in the hands of supernatural organisations may lead to a one-size-fits-all approach that disregards individual circumstances, beliefs and preferences. In addition, the impact on the sovereignty of EU member states cannot be understated. Each country within the European Union has unique healthcare systems policies and legal frameworks. Preserving the sovereignty of member states is essential to maintaining the flexibility needed to address specific regional needs and challenges. The external imposition of a global strategy on digital health would severely undermine the ability of individual countries to make decisions in the best interests of their citizens and adapt to local circumstances. Instead of submitting to a global one-size-fits-all approach that is dictated by external entities, we should prioritise the development of our own robust national health strategy that aligns with our own values, priorities and legal framework.

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