More Equity Concerns on Day One of Pandemic Accord Negotiations
INB co-chair Precious Matsoso and Dr Tedros at the opening of INB4.

Concerns about equity and financing dominated day one of the negotiations on a global pandemic accord’s zero draft at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Geneva head office on Monday.

Opening the fourth meeting of the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) that is steering the process, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyusus noted that various people had remarked about emerging “divisions between North and South” during negotiations. He then appealed to member states “not to repeat the same mistakes” made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tedros also notified the INB that the two United Nations ambassadors from Morocco and Israel, who are facilitating the UN summit on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response in New York in September, were observing the proceedings to “listen to all the stakeholders”.

“They believe in an inclusive and transparent process, which is very, very crucial,” added Tedros.

The meeting moved into a closed session for the rest of the morning to discuss the modalities of negotiations for this meeting and the next, being held from 3 to 5 April.

Equity concerns

During the afternoon session, a number of member states including India, Namibia and Indonesia raised concerns about how equity was not mainstreamed throughout the document.

According to Namibia, it appeared as though equity was “voluntary”, while Indonesia appeals for equity to be considered both between and within countries.

Mexico, speaking for Latin America, was concerned about the lack of “binding language” and incentives to encourage equity.

Meanwhile, for the US “commitment to equity must address inequities not only between countries but also within them, not just protecting populations from pandemics but also from illness, death and disrupted access to essential health care services during pandemics, including sexual and reproductive health services”. 

The US, Japan and India expressed disquiet about the accord prescribing “specific allocations of domestic budgets or GDP” to pandemic preparedness and response.

“We would like to know from the Bureau the basis of determining 5% of member states current expenditure on health to be dedicated for pandemic preparedness, response and health system recoveries as this tool seems unnecessarily prescriptive,” said India.

Japan said that it could not be a party to an instrument “with a percentage GDP financial commitment”, adding that intellectual property issues should be addressed at the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

China at INB4

Climate change inclusion

Fiji on behalf of the Western Pacific, asked for consideration of the “multi-dimensional vulnerabilities such as geographical remoteness and the particular context of small island developing states that may be an impediment in pandemic response” and “specific recommendations in recognition of the impacts of climate change”. 

Along with countries including Australia and the UK, Fiji also supported the “integration of a One Health approach.. working collaboratively across the human, animal, environment and food sectors”.

Both China and Russia were concerned that a pandemic accord should not undermine their sovereignty.

China called for a “more flexible and effective dialogue mechanism so as to fully and widely consult and incorporate the opinions and needs of different parties in whole process and reflect the principles of respecting national sovereignty, respecting diversity and differences, equity, solidarity, coordination and inclusion”.

Various European states and the EU used the meeting to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Russia retaliating that they were attempting to “politicize” the INB process.

The meeting continues until Friday, although most of the sessions will be for member states only.

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