WHO Member States set new pandemic treaty deadline

WHO Member States set new pandemic treaty deadline

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Representatives from the WHO’s 194 member countries agreed on a set of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations of 2005. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced recently that negotiations for a pandemic accord aimed at preventing a repeat of the COVID-19 challenges are expected to conclude within the next year. During the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly on June 1, representatives from the WHO’s 194 member countries were unable to finalise a new legally binding global convention. 

However, they agreed on a set of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of 2005 and committed to completing negotiations for a global pandemic agreement by next year. The IHR, initially established in 1969, serves as the legally binding framework designed to enhance the world’s response to global health threats.

WHO’s Member States decided to extend the mandate of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body, established in December 2021, to finish its work to negotiate a Pandemic Agreement within a year, by the World Health Assembly in 2025, or earlier, if possible, at a special session of the Health Assembly in 2024.

“The decisions taken on June 1 demonstrate a common desire by Member States to protect their own people, and the world’s, from the shared risk of public health emergencies and future pandemics,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said. “The amendments to the International Health Regulations will bolster countries’ ability to detect and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics by strengthening their own national capacities, and coordination between fellow States, on disease surveillance, information sharing and response. This is built on commitment to equity, an understanding that health threats do not recognise national borders, and that preparedness is a collective endeavour.”

The latest amendments to the IHR include:

  • Introducing a definition of a pandemic emergency to trigger more effective international collaboration in response to events that are at risk of becoming, or have become, a pandemic. The pandemic emergency definition represents a higher level of alarm that builds on the existing mechanisms of the IHR, including the determination of public health emergency of international concern. 
  • Establishing a coordinating financial mechanism to support identification of, and access to, financing required to “equitably address the needs and priorities of developing countries, including for developing, strengthening and maintaining core capacities,” and other pandemic emergency prevention, preparedness and response-related capacities. 
  • Creating national IHR authorities to improve coordination and implementation of the regulations within and among countries. Also, the establishment of States Parties Committee to facilitate the effective implementation of the amended regulations. 

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