Civil Society Wants to Help Shape the Pandemic Accord
The WHO’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body’s fourth meeting is underway in Geneva.

Although the drafting of the proposed global pandemic accord will happen behind closed doors, civil society organisations want a say as they’re often on the ground dealing with health emergencies.

This emerged during the second day of the meeting of the World Organization’s (WHO) intergovernmental negotiating board (INB), which is just starting to discuss the zero draft of the accord.

Health Action International stressed “the legitimacy of public interest civil society to participate in this and other international processes, not only as providers of expertise and knowledge but as recipients of a mandate to transmit the voice and grievances of communities, individuals and parties too often overlooked, persecuted or taken for granted by far too many governments and organisations”.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged the INB to include civil society in the drafting of the pandemic, saying that “we have a successful example of that sort of participation in the development of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. 

The OHCHR emphasised the important role of civil society organisations played in “resolving difficult questions and identifying priorities”, particularly during pandemics and other crises.


Key access to medicines advocates including Medecins sans Frontieres, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), and Medicines Law & Policy called for the accord to give attention to transparency, particularly in regard to research and development (R&D) and public funding.

“Transparency will be essential for addressing future pandemic risks and implementing the agreement including monitoring compliance,” added Medicines Law & Policy’s Ellen ‘t Hoen

She added that the sharing of intellectual property (IP), know-how and technology could be mandatory during a pandemic, and that new legal obligations “can be created in compliance with existing international law including the World Trade Organization TRIPS Agreement”. 

Ellen t’Hoen

KEI described article 7.4 B of the zero draft as “the most important intellectual property proposal in the text”.

This clause states that, in the event of a pandemic, member states “will apply the full use of the flexibilities provided in the TRIPS Agreement, including those recognized in the Doha Declaration”.

However, KEI warned that the clause “should avoid a closed list of exceptions or specific references to the TRIPS agreement” as, in the event of a pandemic, “the mandatory obligations to use exceptions” were often needed in country’s domestic IP laws.

“Parties should also be required to review and modify domestic laws to ensure that there are sufficient exceptions to exclusive rights and intellectual property in order to respond to a pandemic,” KEI added.

Vision is limited

Meanwhile, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR)’s co-chair, Helen Clark, said that the draft’s vision was lacking as it assumed pandemics would take place – yet the political decisions taken by member states “can avert devastating pandemics”.

“The International Health Regulations and the pandemic instrument should together set the rules that ensure an outbreak does not result in a devastating pandemic,” said Clark in a statement.

Clark added that “accountability must include independent monitoring, which should be explicitly built into this draft. We would welcome an independent expert group for continuous monitoring, which could, for example, be modelled on the IPCC, associated with the climate convention”.

Closed sessions

The afternoon session of the INB was closed for member states to be guided through a reading of the draft to ensure that all parties had the same understanding of the clauses, said co-chair Roland Driece.

Much of the rest of the week is also likely to be closed as the drafting of clauses will follow. However, the INB co-chairs have promised to hold open information sessions from time to time.

Image Credits: WHO.

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