‘Get it Done’ or Don’t Block Consensus, Tedros Urges Pandemic Agreement Negotiators
Steve Solomon, WHO Principal Legal Officer, co-chairs Precious Matsoso and Roland Driece, and  Jaouad Mahjour, Head of WHO Secretariat to intergovernmental negotiating body.

“Get this done” – and if you disagree, don’t block consensus, was the heartfelt plea made by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyessus to member states negotiating a pandemic agreement on Friday (3 May).

Tedros was addressing the ‘stocktake’ in the middle of the final 10-day meeting of the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB), and it was clear that member states were nowhere close to the finish.

“You are here for the same reason this organisation was created in the first place – because global threats demand a global response,” said Tedros.

“I appreciate that all of you are making compromises you did not want to make. I appreciate that, article-by-article, paragraph-by-paragraph, word-by-word, you are converging on a consensus, although you’re not there yet.

“I also appreciate that consensus does not mean unanimity. I recognise that there may be delegations who, despite their good faith efforts, may not be in a position to join a consensus, but they have a choice. They can choose not to block consensus.”

Evoking “the people of the world”, including future generations, those struggling to survive and those mourning family members who died during COVID-19, Tedros said: “Please, get this done, for them.”

Pandemic Agreement negotiations status (3 May).

At the stocktake, INB co-chairs told stakeholders that revised text has been circulated for Articles 4, 6, 10 and 19, and there is broad agreement on parts of Articles 4, 6 and 10.

New text for Articles 13, 13bis, 14, 17 and 20 still need to be circulated. Meanwhile,  Chapter 1 (definitions) and Chapter 3 have not yet been discussed.

However, at a media briefing later on Friday INB co-chairs said that agreement had been reached on Article 18, an innocuous article on communication. However, they were cagey about giving any specifics on the negotiations, stressing that countries “are trying to find each other”

“Nothing is agreed yet, but also nothing has been taken out yet,” said co-chair Roland Driece, adding that negotiations became complex when trade issues became involved.

“It’s not uncommon, actually is quite normal, that everything should come together almost in the last couple of days,” he added. “It’s standard negotiation practice that countries will only give up on what’s important for them when they see the whole picture.”

Driece added: “In the situation that we would not find consensus by the end of the week, we will report that to the World Health Assembly and it’s up to the World Health Assembly then to decide what should be happening next.” 

Matsoso concluded the briefing by warning: “The window of opportunity is closing, and once it closes, it will be a missed opportunity intergenerationally because there are new priorities and we cannot afford to miss this.  We can only but encourage countries to work towards finalising the agreement.”

Member states will be meeting in working groups on contentious articles over most of the weekend, then the 12-hour daily schedule resumes officially on Monday.

The programme for next week involves finalising all text. Working groups will meet in mornings to discuss and “yellow” text, indicating which areas are ready to be put up for discussion. Plenary sessions will be held in the afternoons to read and “green” this text. There is also time for breakouts and working groups in evenings.

Image Credits: WHO, Nina Schwalbe.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.