By Haruna Gimba
Member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) have begun negotiations on a global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, using the “zero draft” as a basis for negotiating an agreement to protect nations and communities from future pandemic emergencies.
Ending Friday, discussions on the draft pandemic accord took place during the weeklong fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which includes WHO’s 194 countries.
Negotiations on the draft will continue over the next year according to a timetable laid out by the World Health Assembly (WHA).
Mr Roland Driece, Co-Chair of the INB Bureau, from the Netherlands, said: “The start of discussions of concrete language for the WHO pandemic accord sends a clear signal that countries of the world want to work together for a safer, healthier future where we are better prepared for, and able to prevent future pandemic threats, and respond to them effectively and equitably.”
Fellow INB Bureau Co-Chair, Ms Precious Matsoso of South Africa, said: “The efforts this week, by countries from around the world, was a critical step in ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the COVID-19 pandemic response, including in sharing life-saving vaccines, provision of information and development of local capacities.”
Ms Matsoso added: “That we have been able to move forward so decisively is testimony to the global consensus that exists on the need to work together and to strengthen WHO’s and the international community’s ability to protect the world from pandemic threats.”
WHO Member States will continue negotiations of the zero draft of the pandemic accord at the INB’s next meeting, to be held over April 3-6, with a view to collecting all inputs necessary to develop the first draft.
According to the process agreed by governments at a special session of the World Health Assembly in late 2021, negotiations on the draft pandemic accord will aim to produce a final draft for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.
During the week, the senior diplomats from Israel and Morocco, who are serving as co-facilitators of the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response, briefed the INB on their preparations for the 20 September meeting, in order to ensure collaboration between the processes.
In parallel with the pandemic accord negotiations, governments are also discussing more than 300 amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) in an effort to make the world safer from communicable diseases and ensuring greater equity in the global response to public health emergencies.
Governments have been working to ensure consistency and alignment across the INB and IHR processes.
The proposed IHR amendments will also be presented to the World Health Assembly in 2024, and would together, with a future pandemic accord, provide a comprehensive, complementary, and synergistic set of global health agreements.