Observers had earlier criticised the absence of independent monitoring for ensuring compliance with the pandemic accord
In the run-up to the draft negotiations on the pandemic treaty set to begin next month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a set of 10 proposals January 5, 2023. These will be discussed in the global health body’s upcoming executive board meeting scheduled for January 30-February 7.
Salient features being addressed in these papers include the establishment of a Global Health Emergency Council, targeted amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005), enhancing coordination between finance and health decision-makers and strengthening WHO to function as the core of the HEPR (health emergency preparedness, response and resilience) framework.
Keen observers had earlier criticised the absence of independent monitoring for ensuring compliance with the pandemic accord.
Under the third proposal — Scale up Universal Health and Preparedness Reviews and strengthen independent monitoring — the WHO advocated for complimenting self-assessment and peer review with independent monitoring characterised by being evidence-based, transparent and expert-led.
It added that the independent monitoring of international instruments “should build on and strengthen existing monitoring mechanisms, such as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.”
Also read: 2022 too short, too far: How the pandemic progressed
Nina Schwalbe, a public health professor at Columbia University, swiftly called out that neither of these bodies are independent of the WHO in her Twitter analysis.
The proposed Global Health Emergency Council is unlikely to yield the required political leadership, Schwalbe further noted.
In a December 2022 Washington Post editorial co-authored by her, Schwalbe cited the example of how the Sudanese government handled its Ebola outbreak by downplaying it, an argument mirrored by the global health body as well.
“While the WHO has a vital role to play in supporting states on pandemic preparedness and response, it has often struggled to call out bad behaviour publicly as it seeks to maintain good relations with member states,” she said.
The committee, therefore, needs to report to a higher authority than the WHO, such as the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, a “Global Health Threats Board” or the UN secretary general,” she argued.
Also read: Lifecycle of COVID-19: Yet another omicron sub-variant has countries on high alert
Other proposals in the WHO document address the need to strengthen the health emergency workforce, standardising how to conduct strategic planning, financing, operations and monitoring of health emergency preparedness and response, encouraging a whole-of-society approach by collaborative surveillance, community protection and access to emergency coordination.
The document also detailed the need to fully finance the Pandemic Fund, established by the WHO along with the World Bank in September 2022.
In conclusion, the noted action required by the executive committee board listed how the Secretariat can best work with member states to advance the 10 proposals and identify gaps that require filling.
“WHO will continue to work with member states and partners to further develop these proposals for strengthening global HEPR through the relevant member state-led mechanisms and forums,” the document noted.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.