‘Show Up and Listen’: WHO Member States Are Urged to Attend Civil Society Meetings on Pandemic Agreement
Health workers don personal protective equipment before attending to patients with COVID-19.

After months of protesting about the lack of space for civil society in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic agreement negotiations, the Pandemic Action Network (PAN) is hosting two community meetings next week – and it expects member states to show up and listen.

The meetings take place next Wednesday and Thursday (21 and 22 February), in the midst of a two-week meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB).

“Groups from across civil society have worked hard to create opportunities for civil society organisations’ (CSO) voices to be heard by the INB negotiators to the pandemic agreement, including for next week – what we need is a cast-iron guarantee from member states that they will show up, listen and consider incorporating civil society asks into the agreement,” says Eloise Todd, PAN’s executive director and co-founder.

“The future agreement will be more effective if it builds on civil society and community lived experience and learnings from the vast inequities of the COVID-19 pandemic and other pandemics. 

“We call on CSOs around the world and based in Geneva to join us for these sessions, and our message to member states is clear: we hope and expect to see you there,” adds Todd.

INB co-chairs Precious Matsoso and Roland Driece will attend both meetings, which will take place during the INB’s lunch breaks from 12:45 to 13:45pm (CET) on both days in a WHO meeting room near the negotiations in Geneva.

The first meeting will include a focus on “access and benefit sharing”, while the second will include “accountability and institutional arrangements”.


PAN has invited both civil society organisations and member states to register for the meetings either virtually or to attend in-person. The deadline for in-person registration is close-of-business on Monday 19 February.

“To help ensure the world is equipped to prevent, prepare, and rapidly respond to the next

pandemic, the INB process must result in a meaningful, ambitious, and accountable agreement that goes beyond business as usual,” says PAN.

“To do so, civil society expertise, support, and engagement are critical. These meetings will provide an opportunity for civil society to share feedback and recommendations on the evolving text.”

The eighth INB meeting begins on Monday as negotiators knuckle down for the final stretch before their May deadline.

PAN and its over 70 partners have asked member states to  “cement equity, accountability, financing, prevention, and gender in the final agreement”.

Tedros hits out at ‘lies’

Meanwhile, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hit out at the “litany of lies and conspiracy theories” aimed at undermining the pandemic agreement in an address to the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Monday.

“We cannot allow this historic agreement, this milestone in global health, to be sabotaged by those who spread lies, either deliberately or unknowingly,” said Tedros.

“Let me be clear: WHO did not impose anything on anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not lockdowns, not mask mandates, not vaccine mandates. We don’t have the power to do that, we don’t want it, and we’re not trying to get it.

“Our job is to support governments with evidence-based guidance, advice and, when needed, supplies, to help them protect their people. But the decisions are theirs. And so is the pandemic agreement. It has been written by countries, for countries, and will be implemented in countries in accordance with their own national laws,” he added.

“Far from ceding sovereignty, the agreement actually affirms national sovereignty and national responsibility in its foundational principles.”

Image Credits: U.S. Army National Guard/Edwin L. Wriston, Tehran Heart Centre .

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