Competing visions for W.H.O. reforms

Image credit: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

THE ROLE OF WHO

While there is agreement on the overall importance of WHO in the context of pandemic preparedness and response, countries including Germany, France, Brazil, the U.S. and Chile, specifically call for greater member state oversight and guidance on WHO’s emergencies work.

GOVERNANCE OF THE EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME

Countries have a number of suggestions on improving governance related aspects specifically concerning the emergencies work of WHO.

ON FUNDING

Germany and France had already made strong arguments in favour of “a general increase of assessed contributions and of core voluntary contributions to cover WHO’s core business (base programme).” In their proposal, these countries highlighted that the lack of flexibility WHO has in its funding, given that only 20% is in the form of assessed contributions and the rest are voluntary in nature that are earmarked. In addition, WHO has long been overshadowed by its richer partners in global health.

ON IHR REFORMS

Countries have elaborated comprehensively what reforms of the IHR(2005) should look like.

ON SHARING INFORMATION UNDER IHR

Korea and others suggest creating new criteria and guidelines on the type and scope of information that States Parties must communicate to WHO. And have sought for “a real-time information-sharing platform, in which States Parties may have direct access to information provided to WHO by State Parties under Article 6, through their designated focal points.” Standardization of ways to trace contacts once events have been notified has also been suggested for better sharing of information.

EMPOWERING THE IHR EMERGENCY COMMITTEES

A number of countries have suggested empowering the Emergency Committee including by improving transparency in its proceedings. (See this New York Times Story: In hunt for virus source, WHO let China take charge — that raised questions around the emergency committee meeting on January 23 2020.)

ON THE DECLARATION OF A PHEIC

Given the ubiquitous nature of COVID-19, the acronym PHEIC which stands for ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’, nearly became an everyday term during the current pandemic.

ON TRAVEL AND TRADE RESTRICTIONS

The pandemic year of 2020, saw international trade plummet and freeze on account of not only lockdowns across countries, but also because of protectionist trade measures resulting in hoarding of essential supplies.

SAMPLE SHARING OF PATHOGENS

Sharing of genomic sequences during COVID-19 dramatically hastened the research and response to the disease. And yet, countries’ largely have not dealt with the subject of sample sharing of pathogens in a comprehensive manner. (See an agenda item on the same, coming up at the Executive Board later this month.)

ON EQUITABLE ACCESS

Countries have not elaborated much on this important issue of equitable access in the context of preparedness and pandemics, even as some countries are currently weighing decisions to cut doses of vaccines in order to reach greater numbers of vulnerable people.

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Geneva Health Files

Geneva Health Files

A newsletter from the capital of global health, reporting on politics, policies and power.