UN Approves High-Level Pandemic Summit
During the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers in Guatemala liaise with local partners to maintain essential ANC services, communicate accurate information, and provide social support to pregnant women, thanks to a USAID-supported programme of the NGO MSH.

The United Nations General Assembly voted to hold a summit of heads of state and other world leaders next year to find fair, long-lasting solutions for the global inequities and inadequate responses that the COVID-19 pandemic has all too painfully highlighted.

Delegates to the 193-nation assembly overwhelmingly approved the resolution in a consensus vote on Friday with the backing of 12 sponsors and 117 cosponsors.

The pandemic “revealed serious shortcomings at the country, regional and global levels in preparedness for, timely and effective prevention and detection of, and response to potential health emergencies, including in the capacity and resilience of health systems, indicating the need to better prepare for future health emergencies,” the resolution says.

The resolution calls for a one-day summit of heads of state, ministers and other government officials to be held sometime during the second half of September 2023, when the assembly holds its annual highest-profile gathering at the UN headquarters in New York City.

It is to be convened by the president of the General Assembly in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), at the level of heads of state and government, by no later than the last day of general debate at its 78th session scheduled for 12-30 September 2023.

The summit is expected to “adopt a succinct political declaration aimed at, inter alia, mobilizing political will at the national, regional and international levels for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response,” the resolution says.

The assembly’s president also is supposed to appoint two co-facilitators to present “options and modalities” for the summit and the political declaration, it says. 

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (left) and Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark (right), co-chairs of The Independent Panel presented a second report on Monday, 22 November, calling for quick action on a Pandemic Treaty or Convention

Pandemic summit a high priority of the Independent Panel

The Independent Panel chaired by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark made it a key recommendation last year.

In their report, “COVID-19: Make It the Last Pandemic,” they argued that world leaders must do more to quickly fix vaccine equities and pandemic financing to head off the next disaster.

After the vote, nations such as Brazil, Korea, Switzerland and the US voiced support for the summit but cautioned it must complement the work in Geneva on the International Health Regulations (IHR) amendments and Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) process.

The 194-nation World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva approved a resolution in May laying out the complex process it will use to update the IHR’s legally binding rules among nations for responding to global health emergencies like the pandemic.

In July, the INB agreed negotiations towards a pandemic “treaty” intended to improve the world’s pandemic prevention, preparedness and response will be set up in terms of Article 19 of WHO’s Constitution. That would allow WHA to make the treaty legally binding if a two-thirds majority approves it.

Broad support for pandemic summit

The resolution’s 12 sponsors were: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden and Vietnam.

Another 117 countries were co-sponsors:

Algeria, Andora, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Britain, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina-Faso, Cape Verde, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, LIberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montenegro, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Morino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Togo, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Image Credits: MSH, @TheIndPanel.

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