EU Prioritises ‘Common Good’ in Its Pandemic Accord Draft Proposals

The European Union (EU) has prioritised “common good” proposals and “legal provisions” in its initial text-based proposals for the pandemic accord, according to a rationale published alongside these proposals.

Both documents were initially published late Monday on the Delegation of the European Union to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva page of the EU website but removed on Tuesday.

The two documents are still publicly available elsewhere on the EU site along with a host of caveats about the status of the proposal:

“We believe that a mindset of working towards ‘the common good’ will help us to move forward towards finding convergence and towards adoption of the new agreement in the very short time-frame we have available,” the rationale states in relation to the 63-page proposal.

In addition, it has crafted legal provisions “with concrete obligations” for parties to the agreement and “commitments for cooperation” that will make a real difference to pandemic preparedness and response (PPR).

 “Provisions that will not merely be beautiful words on paper, but that will actually change the world for the better when it comes to PPR and ensure that we, collectively, will be much better equipped both in terms of avoiding future pandemics and in terms of being able to respond should they still hit,” according to the rationale.

Equitable access

The EU proposes that “high-income countries and other parties in a position to do so” ensure the “availability and affordability in access to counter-measures”. Related to this, parties shall “make all possible efforts” to ensure that availability and affordability commitments are built into agreements with manufacturers that get R&D support from member states.

While the zero draft developed by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body’s (INB) Bureau suggests that 20% of pandemic counter-measures should be allocated to the World Health Organization (WHO) for distribution to member states that cannot afford to buy these, the EU has not committed to any percentages.

However, it proposes that if a countermeasure is in scarce supply, parties need to ensure that manufacturers reserve an as-yet undefined percentage of their production on a quarterly basis for sale to low-income countries and middle-income countries.

A WHO “partnership” should determine “the equitable allocation of the reserved countermeasure quantities”. Meanwhile, the Countermeasures Expert Committee shall issue pricing guidelines, including on not-for-profit and tiered pricing, for pandemic countermeasures.

Pathogen sharing

The EU proposes “free and rapid access to, and sharing of, pathogen samples, pathogen genomic sequence data and other relevant information related to pathogens obtained through their surveillance and detection activities”.

If a countermeasure is developed making use of this sharing, its developer needs to be held to commitments to ensure “general availability and affordability”.

Strong focus on ‘One Health’ 

The EU has proposed a raft of new clauses dealing with One Health, covering “farms, transport of animals, live animal markets, trade in wild animals and in veterinary practices both for food-producing and companion animals”.

Member states should be compelled to develop, strengthen and maintain the capacity to “detect, identify and characterize pathogens presenting significant risks, including pathogens in an animal population presenting a zoonotic risks, and vector-borne diseases”.

Measures to identify risks and prevent zoonotic spillover need to be applied to animals’ water and feed hygiene, infection prevention and control measures, biosecurity and animal welfare support measures.

Governance and Accord structure 

The EU also proposed structural changes to the Accord, opining that the zero-draft resembles a “compilation” from member states and “does not resemble an international legally binding agreement – neither in structure nor in content”, according to the EU.

“The EU believes that our collective task of adopting a new agreement in record time will be greatly facilitated if the First Draft will resemble the typical shape of an international agreement – both in terms of structure and in terms of the actual provisions,” it noted, making a number of structural changes to do this.

It also proposes a Conference of the Parties “as the main body responsible for promoting and supporting the implementation of the accord” be established by the WHO’s Director General within six months of the adoption of the agreement – slated for next May at the 2024 World Health Assembly.

It also proposes the establishment of a pandemic Countermeasure Expert Committee, which will make determinations such as whether a countermeasure is in scarce supply.

Negotiations on a global pandemic accord resume next Monday at the fifth INB meeting. The meeting agenda is an extension of the fourth INB meeting that ended on 3 March, as it will continue with the text-based negotiations. Member states are rushing to meet the 14 April deadline for the submission of textual proposals.

Image Credits: Alexandre Lallemand/ Unsplash .

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