By Franca Ofili
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that member-states have agreed to develop the first draft of a legally binding agreement designed to protect the world from future pandemics.
In a statement released on Thursday, WHO said that the agreement would take into account equity, promote preparedness, ensure solidarity, and respect sovereignty.
According to it, the “zero draft” of the pandemic accord, rooted in the WHO Constitution, will be discussed by Member States in February 2023.
“Today’s agreement by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), comprised of WHO’s 194 Member States.
“It is a milestone in the global process to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent a repeat of the devastating impacts it has had on individuals and communities worldwide.
“The INB gathered at WHO headquarters in Geneva from 5-7 December for its third meeting since its establishment in December 2021, following a special session of the World Health Assembly,” it said.
The statement said that the body agreed that the INB’s Bureau would develop the zero draft of the pandemic accord in order to start negotiations at the fourth INB meeting scheduled to start on 27 February 2023.
It said that the draft would be based on the conceptual zero draft and the discussions during this week’s INB meeting.
The statement said the INB Bureau was comprised of six delegates, one from each of the six WHO regions, including the Co-Chairs Mr Roland Driece of the Netherlands and Ms Precious Matsoso of South Africa.
Mr Driece, Co-Chair of the INB Bureau said that countries have delivered a clear message that the world must be better prepared, coordinated and supported to protect all people, everywhere, from a repeat of COVID-19.
He said the decision was to task them with the duty to develop a zero draft of a pandemic accord represents a major milestone in the path towards making the world safer.
A Fellow INB Bureau Co-Chair, Ms Matsoso, said government representatives stressed that any future pandemic accord would need to take into account equity, strengthen preparedness, ensure solidarity, promote a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach, and respect the sovereignty of countries.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human lives, economies and societies at large must never be forgotten.
“The best chance we have, today, as a global community, to prevent a repeat of the past is to come together, in the spirit of solidarity, in a commitment to equity, and in the pursuit of health for all.
“Also develop a global accord that safeguards societies from future pandemic threats.
“The WHO pandemic accord is being considered with a view to its adoption under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, without prejudice to also considering, as work progresses, the suitability of Article 21,” Matsoso said.