As UN Pandemic Talks Resume, Tedros Expresses ‘Concern’ About Slow Pace of Accord Negotiations
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arriving at the 73rd meeting of the WHO Africa region.

After a two-week hiatus in negotiations, United Nations (UN) member states this week received a third draft of the Political Declaration being developed for the High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response on 20 September.

The declaration was supposed to have been finalised by early August and put under silence procedure but member states failed to agree on a number of clauses and negotiations were interrupted by the northern hemisphere summer holidays.

Last week, bilateral meetings resumed and sources told Health Policy Watch that member states finally received an amended draft this week.

Slow pandemic accord talks

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern this week about the slow pace of negotiations on the pandemic accord, warning that it may not be completed by the May 2024 deadline.

“I’m concerned that negotiations are moving slowly and that the accord may not be agreed in time for next year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). I urge all member states to work with a sense of urgency with a particular focus on resolving the most difficult and contentious issues,” Tedros told WHO Africa’s regional meeting at its opening on Monday.

“This is a unique opportunity that we must not miss to put in place a comprehensive accord that addresses all of the lessons learnt during the pandemic with a particular emphasis on equity. This region has more to gain from a strong accord than any other so I urge you to continue engaging actively in the negotiations to make sure the needs and expectations of Africa are heard,” added Tedros.

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) in charge of developing the accord to present to the WHA is set to meet again on 4-6 September.

Tedros also referred to the negotiations to amend the International Health Regulations (IHR) currently underway, describing the IHR as the “cornerstone of detecting and responding to disease spread internationally”.

“But as the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare, there are serious gaps in compliance and implementation which must be addressed. We need an IHR that’s fit for purpose,” said Tedros.

“The proposed amendments now being discussed by member states address many crucial areas including compliance, cooperation, and more efficient communication. We must learn the lesson of COVID-19, which is that global threats require a global response that is based on coherence and mechanisms for cooperation, rooted in solidarity and equity.”

The Working Group on IHR meets again on 2-6 October for the fifth time and is expected to debate the definition of a pandemic, amongst other issues.

“Crucially, the new global architecture cannot be designed, built or managed by those with the most power, money and influence. It must be designed, built and managed by all member states and partners in a truly inclusive process,” Tedros urged.

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