WHO Pandemic Accord - INB 7
In December 2021, the World Health Assembly established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
The seventh meeting of the INB was held from 6-10 November 2023, at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and will resume over 4-6 December 2023. During this meeting, WHO Member States considered and discussed a proposal for negotiating text of the WHO pandemic agreement. The opening and closing plenary sessions of the meeting were opened to WHO Member States, Associate Members, Observers and regional economic integration organizations, as well as all relevant stakeholders. Read more
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was represented by Arnaud Goessens, Associate Director of EU Policy, WCS EU office, who addressed the plenary in person. With only a few short months before consensus text is due, WCS hopes that civil society will be granted additional access to the INB and the negotiations, and welcomed the comments made by Member States in that regard.
Left: Arnaud Goessens, WCS EU Office, speaking at the INB 7 in Geneva / Right: INB7 Plenary Session
WCS appreciates the time, effort, and consideration that has gone into developing the draft negotiating text. It is a significant improvement from prior texts; however, we highlighted two important issues related to Article 4. As it currently stands, the focus of Article 4 is downstream or secondary prevention, whereas upstream or primary prevention is equally or arguably even more important as it reduces the likelihood of spillover events happening in the first place. Likewise, public health is a tool or sub-discipline of a One Health approach. Surveillance should not be limited to the human sector and must also include the health of the environment, ecosystems, and animals. We therefore recommended that the focus of Article 4 be expanded to include both primary and secondary prevention and collaborative surveillance of all One Health sectors.
As the 'directing and coordinating authority on international health work', the WHO and its Parties must ensure that this once-in-a-generation agreement includes provisions that will truly reduce the risk of pathogen spillovers, epidemics, pandemics, and the emergence and reemergence of diseases at the human-animal-environment interfaces from happening in the first place. The global community cannot afford to focus solely on reducing the impacts of events resulting from spillovers. Governments must also focus on preventing pandemics at their source.
The Representative of the European Union stated that several provisions, such as those related to prevention and preparedness, are still insufficient to address the gaps that COVID-19 exposed, which would undermine the collective capacity to prevent future pandemics from happening.
The Representative of Germany stated that essential areas of prevention and preparedness, especially following a One Health approach, need to be strengthened and reflected with concrete, legal obligations. Without tangible improvements on the ground in pandemic prevention, disagreement will fail in drawing the lessons from COVID-19.
The Representative of Fiji stated that the One Health approach must be strengthened in the negotiating text. While there is an Article dedicated to One Health, the wording is very general and fails to identify related drivers of pandemics and the emergence and re-emergence of diseases at the human-animal-environment interface, for example, climate change, land-use change, and loss of biodiversity.
The Representative of The Netherlands stated that more attention is needed for prevention and One Health in this agreement, as it is essential to focus as much attention on preventing new pandemics as on efforts for preparedness and response.
WCS and One Health
Pandemic prevention at source
Links between Ecological Integrity and Human Health
Best Practices to Confront Pandemics at the Source
WCS Recommendations to Reduce Pandemic Risk