Discussions over the International Pandemic Agreement have been intensifying in recent months. The special session of the World Health Assembly, taking place on 29 November-1 December 2021, will hopefully mark an important milestone towards better global preparedness, prevention and joint response.
While the legal experts argue about the level of impact of such an Agreement and the possible overlapping with International Health Regulations, civil society is trying to amplify the voice of the beneficiaries and the main providers of the global public health response. These actors are our local heroes: community leaders, nurses, neighbours, patients and many others.
While the formal consultation bodies, more specifically, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, the Review Committee on the functioning of the International Health Regulations and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, had already given their input, the formal consultation with civil society has not yet been launched.
The Member States Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and Response to Health Emergencies to the special session of the World Health Assembly (the preparatory body for the International Pandemic Agreement) divided the formal recommendations into four main categories: 1. Leadership and governance; 2. Systems and tools; 3. Finance; 4. Equity (access to medical countermeasures).
“We believe that binding clauses within the Agreement will allow us to respond to outbreaks faster and in a more efficient manner”
All stakeholders agree about the urgent need to change the status quo to be better prepared for future pandemics, and this change should come at the very beginning of the action. Despite this urgency, policymakers are continuing with business as usual, debating the International Pandemic Agreement behind closed doors, publishing outdated information and ignoring calls to create an advisory civil society body to address the needs of “silenced voices”.
AHF’s vision of how to reform global public health response to pandemics was among the key ideas behind the inception of the initiative called a Panel for a Global Public Health Convention. For several years we have been working on a future International Pandemic Agreement and we consider that the denominator of such an agreement’s success is the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, regardless of their financial or geopolitical stature.
We see a lot of potential in the upcoming Pandemic Agreement, signed by the Heads of States and Governments, which could allow for more accountability, more commitment, more transparency and more funding for better global health.
We believe that binding clauses within the Agreement will allow us to respond to outbreaks faster and in a more efficient manner, as well as permit auditing and inspections from the third parties in territories affected by the outbreaks. While new financial instruments, to be negotiated in the framework of the Agreement, could contribute to more egalitarian and more balanced preparedness and response actions.
“AHF Europe strongly believes that the future International Pandemic Agreement will change the world’s global health management for the better”
Having said this, strong actions start with strong and sustainable governance structure. The actors that are called upon during the crisis should also be called upon during the decision making and drafting of the Agreement. AHF Europe strongly believes that the future International Pandemic Agreement will change the world’s global health management for the better, and we would be delighted to contribute our knowledge, expertise and resources.
We will closely follow the discussions taking place in the World Health Assembly this month and will invite state and non-state actors to get together by establishing a civil society consultation body, together with a formal negotiation body, under the umbrella of the WHO.
Click here to follow the World Health Assembly live stream on 29 November
This article reflects the views of the author and not the views of The Parliament Magazine or of the Dods Group