Time for Top Leaders to Join Pandemic Negotiations

Two final – and likely sleepless – weeks of negotiation on the pandemic agreement begin on Monday, and negotiators have been urged to bring in their principals to ensure speed up decision-making.

The negotiations may well be extended but, for now, this ninth meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) is set to end on the eve of the Easter weekend on 28 March and includes a weekend session.

“Since we have now a few weeks left, I think the engagement of the highest level of leaders will be important to give you more space for compromise because it’s through compromise and collaboration that we can get to the finish line,” WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told negotiators at the last INB meeting.

Tedros also appealed to the leaders of the G20 to assist with the negotiations when he addressed them this week.

“Your leadership is now needed more than ever, with the deadline approaching for the pandemic agreement and amendments to the International Health Regulations,” Tedros told the leaders who were meeting in Brazil.

Lack of consensus on critical areas

Noting that the World Health Assembly is less than 10 weeks away, Tedros told the G20 that the was a lack of consensus at the INB on “critical areas”.

Four INB subgroups have been working to find solutions on four key issues, One Health; sustainable production, technology transfer and supply chains; pathogen access and benefit sharing; and implementation support and financing, he added.

“The subgroups have each submitted their reports to the INB bureau, which has integrated their recommendations into the revised text of the agreement, which was circulated to member states last week. Starting on Monday next week, the INB will meet for the final time, and I sincerely hope that member states will begin to converge on these key issues,” Tedros urged.

“If we miss the opportunity to put in place a pandemic agreement and a stronger IHR, we risk losing momentum. More importantly, we risk leaving the world exposed to the same shortcomings that hampered the global response to COVID-19: a lack of coordination, a lack of sharing information, and a lack of equity.”