Time is Tight for Pandemic Accord Negotiations, Tedros Acknowledges
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opens the fifth meeting of the intergovernmental negotiating body.

The fifth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft a pandemic accord started on Monday with acknowledgement by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that it faces a very tight timeframe.

“There is now only one year until the World Health Assembly in May 2024, which will consider the outcome of your efforts,” said Tedros. “This is a very tight timeframe, especially for a global negotiation. But from what you have accomplished so far, I am confident again that you have the will and commitment to reach a consensus in 11 months.”

Tedros noted that the WHO’s Constitution, itself a treaty adopted in 1946, “affirms not only that health is a fundamental human right for all people, but also that the health of all people is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest cooperation of individual individuals and states”.

“This INB is a renewed commitment to that principle, a renewed commitment to protect populations, communities, and individuals from public health threats,” he added, enumerating the current health outbreaks including Marburg, Ebola and cholera in 70 countries.

“These are reminders of why we need to work collectively to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Protecting lives and livelihoods is not charity. We must move beyond that paradigm. And that’s what your important work is about with its focus on consensus, inclusivity and transparency. As you navigate the negotiation phase, I urge you to keep listening to and supporting one another,” Tedros concluded.

Brief public opening

The INB was open to the public for 23 minutes before moving into closed “drafting” sessions until Thursday afternoon when it will give a brief public reportback.

However, before it closed, the INB bureau reported on the three informal sessions it had held in the past month since the last INB meeting that covered five topics.

The first session on 17 March covered predictable global supply chain and logistics network (article six of the zero draft), during which the panellists noted that the existing text already covered most elements but suggested that some of the legally binding aspects “could further enhance obligations”. 

The second topic that day covered ‘One Health’ (article 18), with some member states questioning whether, given the breadth of the topic, an entirely separate instrument may be considered. 

The second session on 20 March also covered two topics. The first focused on the transfer of technology and know-how (article seven) with speakers from the WHO, World Trade Orgaization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reflecting on what worked well during the COVID pandemic, such as that the period of licencing was shortened from an average of three years to one year. They also discussed what could be improved for the future, including the pre-selection of manufacturers and setting up templates for licencing.

The second topic looked at stable and equitably distributed production (also article seven). Panellists highlighted a few areas that could be further enhanced, for example, incentivising the manufacturing industry, investing in a highly skilled workforce and ensuring the sustainability of production capacity across all regions. 

The third and final session on 22 March covered the pathogen access and benefit sharing system (article 10), with panellists highlighting that, for an equitable system to be operational, it had to be transparent and have financing, the active involvement of the private sector, and possibly a coordination committee. 

The INB Bureau also met with the Bureau dealing with changes to the International Health Regulations (IHR), reported co-chair Roland Driece.

Reflecting that many representatives sat on both structures, Driece said that the two processes were “complementary”, and the “interlinkages between those two processes… are critical for the success of both instruments”. 

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