WHO Chief Slams ‘Vested Interests’ That Are Peddling Pandemic Accord Misinformation 
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking at the media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

With the sixth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) meeting to develop a  pandemic accord currently underway in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief minced no words when he slammed “groups with vested interests” for trying to sabotage the negotiations.

“Twenty years ago, the tobacco industry tried to undermine negotiations on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The same thing is happening now,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday.  

“Groups with vested interests are claiming falsely that the accord is a power grab by WHO, and that it will stymie innovation and research. Both claims are completely false,” said Tedros.

The sixth INB meeting, which ends on Friday, when it will meet with the Working Group on the amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR). The WGIHR, which is looking into how to tighten compulsory international regulations that govern public health outbreaks and pandemics, holds its fourth meeting from 24 to 28 July. 

Both groups are expected to present final drafts of their negotiations at the World Health Assembly in 2024. 

Doubling down on his displeasure with the unnamed “vested groups”, Tedros said that those who spread “lies” about the pandemic instrument are “endangering the health and safety of future generations”. 

“This accord aims to address the lack of solidarity and equity that hampered the global response to COVID-19. It’s a historic opportunity for the world to learn the painful lessons COVID-19 told us and make the world safer for generations to come.”

On Monday, as the INB negotiations resumed, co-chair Roland Driece, urged member states to complete discussions on the contentious Chapter Two of the compilation draft before a first draft could be formulated for text-based negotiations. 

“I would rather have a first draft that has substance, which we all feel is strong enough to have real line-to-line discussions on, than having something in between which is not good enough yet,” said Driece.

Tedros’ words come in light of the continued efforts to dispel mis- and disinformation about the pandemic instrument on social media. Twitter in particular has been awash with conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the subsequent pandemic accord negotiations.

Earlier this year, Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Countries must not cede authority to the WHO”. His tweet was in response to a speech by the Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts criticising the global health agency. 

Tedros responded that the countries would not be ceding sovereignty to the WHO as the pandemic accord will not change the sovereign status of any country. 

Tedros said on Wednesday that the pandemic accord is like a business contract signed by two companies, likening countries to companies. 

“If two companies sign a business contract and use lawyers to help them develop it, that doesn’t give the lawyers control over the contract, nor make them a party to it. It’s the same here,” he said. 

“The pandemic accord is an agreement between countries and the WHO is helping them to develop that agreement. But WHO will not be a party to the agreement…This is an agreement between countries and countries alone.”

Image Credits: WHO.

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