WHO member states agree to develop 1st draft of legally binding pandemic accord in early 2023

World Health Organization (WHO) member states agreed Wednesday to start developing the first draft of a legally binding agreement designed to protect the world from future pandemics. 

“Countries have delivered a clear message that the world must be better prepared, coordinated, and supported to protect all people, everywhere, from a repeat of COVID-19,” said Roland Driece, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) Bureau.

In December last year, a WHO assembly special meeting agreed to negotiate an accord to forge a future global response to pandemic prevention and preparedness following the emergence of COVID-19.

In February, INB members began work on a draft and presented it to WHO member states in late November, aware that some countries worry that an accord could diminish national autonomy.

The US seeks to have binding and non-binding parts in the new accord.

“There will be some provisions that will be legally binding, and some will be non-legally binding. Exactly what article in the WHO Constitution this ends up falling under is not determined yet,” US Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto said at a press conference on Dec. 2 at the US Mission to the UN in Geneva.

“Today’s agreement by the INB, comprised of the WHO’s 194 member states, was a milestone in the global process to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent a repeat of the devastating impacts it has had on individuals and communities worldwide,” said the WHO.

The INB met at WHO headquarters in Geneva from Dec. 5-7.

‘Zero draft’

The body agreed that the INB Bureau will develop the “zero draft,” or first attempt, of the pandemic accord to start negotiations at the fourth INB meeting, scheduled for Feb. 27, 2023.

The INB Bureau has six delegates, one from each of the six WHO regions, including the co-chairs Driece of the Netherlands and Precious Matsoso of South Africa.

“The decision to task us with the duty to develop a zero draft of a pandemic accord represents a major milestone in the path towards making the world safer,” said Driece.

Matsoso said “the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human lives, economies, and societies at large must never be forgotten.

“The best chance we have, today, as a global community, to prevent a repeat of the past is to come together, in the spirit of solidarity, in a commitment to equity…and develop a global accord that safeguards societies from future pandemic threats.”

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