WHO Member States agree to share outcomes of historic IHR, pandemic agreement processes to World Health Assembly

WHO Member States agree to share outcomes of historic IHR, pandemic agreement processes to World Health Assembly

WHO Member States have ended intensive negotiations aimed at strengthening global capacities to respond to future pandemics and outbreaks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and agreed to submit outcomes of their work for consideration by the upcoming World Health Assembly, starting Monday.

Two parallel negotiation processes were undertaken to make a series of amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) and to develop a first-ever pandemic agreement, convention or other legal instrument.

Delegations to the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly, running from 27 May–1 June, will consider the outcomes of both processes, and the next steps for the two.

“Over the past two years, WHO Member States have dedicated enormous effort to rise to this challenge posted by COVID-19 and respond to the losses it caused, including at least 7 million lives lost,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “COVID-19 affected everybody, in many ways, and that is why Member States started a process to develop a pandemic agreement to make the world better prepared for the next pandemic. While great progress was made during these negotiations, there are challenges still to overcome. We need to use the World Health Assembly to re-energize us and finish the job at hand, which is to present the world with a generational pandemic agreement.”

Countries today ended their resumed 9th meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) comprising WHO’s 194 Member States. Initial agreement was reached by the INB on multiple elements of the draft agreement, and convergence on others. There were also areas of non-convergence and divergent views.

The INB Bureau, which has been guiding the process, will present a report outlining the two-plus years of work of the process, and the outcome of that work, which is the draft text that has been negotiated to date. Options for next steps to conclude the agreement process will also be put to the WHA for consideration.

Bureau co-Chair Mr Roland Driece, of the Netherlands, said WHO Member States remain committed to completing the pandemic agreement process and looked forward to the World Health Assembly to consider the progress made on this landmark initiative.

“Clearly there is agreement among governments that the world must forge a new approach to combatting pandemics,” Mr Driece said. “The next steps in this essential process will now be guided by the World Health Assembly.”

Fellow co-Chair Ms Precious Matsoso, of South Africa, added that the quest for building a generational, equitable agreement to prepare for, prevent and respond to pandemics remains. “The world must not take its focus off the job at hand, which is to ensure the world is better protected from the next pandemic. This will require continuous commitment and action from all parties to build the world’s collective defenses.”

The Working Group on the IHR (WGIHR) amendments will also be presenting its outcome to the WHA for consideration, including some provisions for which agreement in principle was reached and others that the WGIHR Bureau updated its proposed text for consideration by Member States.

The IHR, which were first adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1969 and last revised in 2005, were conceived to maximize collective efforts to manage public health events while at the same time minimizing their disruption to travel and trade. They have 196 State Parties, comprising all 194 WHO Member States plus Liechtenstein and the Holy See. These Parties have led the process to amend the IHR through the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (WGIHR). Today marked the end of the resumed session of the eighth meeting of the WGIHR.  

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