WHO Group is ‘Very Close’ But Fails to Agree on Changes to International Health Regulations


An exhausted looking WGIHR co-chair Ashley Bloomfield reports back on the process

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) working group has failed to meet its deadline of Friday (26 April) for amending the rules governing global disease outbreaks – the International Health Regulations (IHR) – and will reconvene.

This emerged late afternoon on Friday (26 April) at a briefing after the week-long Working Group of Amendments to the IHR (WGIHR), when drawn co-chair Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced that the group would reconvene on 16 and 17 May for a final two days’ negotiation.

“The mood in the room has been outstanding, and we have worked really hard to make amazing progress. We’re not quite cracking the bottles of champagne and sparkling grape juice, but we were getting very close and I have every sense that you are all committed to finishing the job,” said Bloomfield.

WHO Deputy Director General Dr Mike Ryan commended the group, saying he was “very confident” that the IHR would be  “a clearer, better instrument for your efforts, something that we can apply better on your behalf and on behalf of the people that you serve”.

The WGIHR has asked member states to submit written inputs, particularly on the articles that the meeting failed  to reach agreement on or did not discuss, by 6 May and it will reconvene for a further two days after that.

The Articles that still need agreement relate to technology transfer, financing and governance.

However, many of the WGIHR members are also part of the pandemic agreement talks, which start on Monday 29 April under the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB). The programme of work for the INB envisages 12-hour days, so there will be no space for IHR talks until after 10 May.

However, the two processes are closer linked and the definitions adopted by the IHR, including all the phases that led up to the WHP Director General declaring a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), will be used in the pandemic agreement.

The World Health Assembly, which is due to ratify the amendments, begins on 27 May, so time is very tight.

The WGIHR will submit an updated proposed text to member states by 10 May.

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