Countries of the Americas meet again to advance on the future pandemic agreement – PAHO/WHO

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Washington, D.C. February 14, 2024. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to avoid a repeat of the immense health, social and economic repercussions the world experienced from such a devastating health crisis, the countries of the world decided to work together to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response capacities through increased collaboration, solidarity and high-level political commitment.

As the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted in his address to the World Governments Summit on 12 February, ” the painful lessons we learned are in danger of being forgotten as attention turns to the many other crises confronting our world.”

To prevent this from happening, rallying under the slogan “The world united”, WHO Member States committed at a special session of the World Health Assembly in December 2021 to draft and negotiate an international agreement or legal instrument that will make the world safer and better prepared to prevent and respond to future pandemics by ensuring equity in access to health care, personal protective equipment, medicines, vaccines and other health technologies.

To this end, Governments agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft the document under the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency, Member State leadership and consensus, with the aim of presenting the final results to the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024.

Following these principles, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO’s regional office for the Americas, has accompanied the countries of the Region of the Americas in this process, providing updates and guidance on the deliberations, technical and logistical support to facilitate greater participation of countries in the global negotiations, and coordination of regional meetings that foster discussions on topics of common and strategic interest to the Region.

PAHO has already convened three regional meetings in 2023 with significant participation of national authorities from all the countries of the Americas, demonstrating the high-level recognition of the importance of the agreement under negotiation and the significant mobilization of the Governments of the Region in this process.

On February 15-16, PAHO will host a 4th Regional INB Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to further exchange key information on the progress of the negotiations and to review, jointly with its Member States, some key components of the instrument at stake that is expected to be submitted for approval by the Member States of the World Health Organization in a few months.

These types of instruments help ensure and foster greater collaboration in a variety of areas that impact the health and well-being of people in communities, countries and around the world. “As the generation that lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a collective responsibility to protect future generations from the suffering we endured,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said in his address.

The agreement under negotiation reflects the commitment made by countries around the world to meet the health needs of their populations. However, as the calendar draws nearer, the pandemic agreement faces a major challenge: massive disinformation and misinformation led by “conspiracy theories” that undermine the negotiations and put global health at risk.

“The pandemic agreement is a commitment to national security. […] Now is the moment for leadership from the highest levels of government to deliver the pandemic agreement to the World Health Assembly in 15 weeks’ time. Now is the time to say no to inequity; no to lies and misinformation; and yes to international cooperation; yes to equity; and yes to solidarity,” insisted the WHO Director-General in his Dubai speech.

A successful negotiation of a global Pandemic Accord would only be the third time in WHO’s history that WHO Member States have agreed on a legally binding international instrument, based on the WHO Constitution, to protect and promote people’s health. The first two were the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

For more information on this topic, please refer to the frequently asked questions.

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