WHO Agreement on Pandemics, April Draft: Additional Concerns (Activistpost.com)

5 of 5 (2 votes)

The respite was short (Could Challenges have lied?) and already, they are making new proposals.

Update 25.05.2024: Failed negotiations at the WHO for an anti-pandemic treaty (Rts.ch)

who pandemic

About David Bell et Thi Thuy Van Dinh

The World Health Organization (WHO) negotiating body for the draft agreement on pandemics which is to be voted on at the end of May has produced a new draft. The previous text having been treated in detail in a recent article, it seems appropriate to provide a brief summary of the additional changes. As before, the document becomes more vague but adds more activities to be funded, reinforcing concerns that this process is being rushed without due consideration.

Since December 2021, the intergovernmental negotiating body (ISO) embarked on this project under the WHO Constitution to establish a global framework for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He has already failed to respect the deadline he had set for himself to reach a consensual text before March 29, 2024 (document A/INB/3/4). This two-month deadline was not a legal requirement per se, but was intended to give WHO's 194 Member States time to review the final text in light of their national legal architecture as well as other international obligations. arising from other treaties to which they are parties. It was deleted without explanation, which shows that consensus within the INB is far from being achieved. However, WHO still plans to vote on the provisional agenda of the 77th World Health Assembly (AMS), which will begin on May 27.

Le latest project, proposed by the BNI Bureau (composed of representatives from South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Netherlands and Thailand as co-chairs, assisted by 6 WHO officials from 6 regional offices), dated April 22, 2024, was submitted for negotiations at the 9th NBI meeting held from April 29 to May 10. As usual, the Office is streamlining and consolidating the text previously obtained through the various groups responsible for finding consensus on thorny articles. This meeting has just ended in Geneva without having reached the final text.

Instead of pausing the project, it was announced that the negotiating teams would continue "to resume hybrid and in-person discussions" until the very last minutes before the AMS session. Such a decision is an open disregard for the public, denying them their legitimate right to be informed about the laws to be adopted and ignoring the principle of the WHO Constitution that "informed opinion and active cooperation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance for improving the health of the population" (Preamble).

All previous versions contain proposed provisions referring to the draft amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR), also under negotiation and intended to be voted on at the 77th World Health Assembly, probably illegitimately, since the required four-month review period by Article 55(2) of the 2005 RSI has not been complied with. This latest version is no exception. Several proposed provisions (Articles 5.4, 19.3, 20.1 and 26.2) are expressly linked to the draft IHR amendments, although their final wording is not yet set in stone. This strange situation is the result of a rushed process, based on unsubstantiated claims of urgency and demanding additional budget for global health institutions from countries still reeling from the consequences of an imposed global economic lockdown during the response to Covid-19.

The new draft contains relatively few changes, but reworks several issues. References to CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and “indigenous populations” have been added in the preamble, without much impact on the general meaning. A new phrase, “health systems recovery,” has popped up repeatedly, likely meaning that pandemics weaken health systems.

The commentary below focuses on notable new proposals since the previously evaluated text.
Agreement on Pandemics Bureau Draft, April 22, 2024

Article 1. Use of terms

(d) “pandemic health products” means safe, effective, quality and affordable products that are necessary for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, which may include, but are not limited to , diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and personal protective equipment;

The new definition of “pandemic health products” now contains additional standards for safety, quality and affordability. This is reminiscent of the repetitive messages from global and national public health authorities regarding Covid-related products (“safe and effective”). This appears to be a poor choice of wording, as it raises questions such as: who and how to define the safety and effectiveness of these products so that they are relevant (e.g. do they have to block transmission to be effective in interrupting a pandemic?) It is clear that safety and effectiveness are independent of the type of product. This is an opinion based on criteria which may vary. In a legally binding document, definitions must be enforceable.

Article 6. One health

4. The terms, conditions and operational dimensions of the “One Health” approach are specified in an instrument which takes into account the provisions of the International Health Regulations (2005) and which will be operational by May 31, 2026.

This new paragraph will push States to develop a draft "One Health Instrument" by May 31, 2026 - which may or may not be legally binding, likely as a new program strategy under the auspices of the WHO. It is not clear why the world needs such an instrument, nor why there is a rush to have it in place in two years, given the overlap with other activities in the public health field.

Article 7. Health and care personnel

3. Parties shall invest in establishing and maintaining a multidisciplinary, qualified, trained and coordinated global health emergency workforce that can be deployed to support Parties upon request, based on public health needs, in order to contain epidemics and prevent the escalation of small-scale spread to global proportions.

This is the first time that the expression "global health emergency personnel" appears in the texts of the agreement on pandemics. The concept somewhat resembles current peacekeeping missions operating under Chapters VI and VII of the United Nations Charter, as well as GERM (Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization), a "force to combat pandemics ", advocated by one of the WHO's main donors, Mr. Bill Gates Jr. In Mr. Gates' own words, "operating the GERM will cost the world about $1 billion a year to cover the salaries of the 3.000-person force we would need, as well as equipment, travel and other expenses - money that would come from governments.” The work would be coordinated by the WHO, the only group that can give it global credibility, and it must be accountable to the public.”

This proposal is extremely problematic. If it is maintained, the States will embark on a new project with little detail, but which will entail considerable expenditure. Such an idea requires careful consideration beyond cost and operational modalities; for example, the organization approving the workforce's mandates and budget, host country consent procedures, and the relevant jurisdiction under which the workforce will operate. Once these bureaucracies are established, they can be very difficult to dismantle, but they inevitably divert resources - human and financial - from the larger health problems of today.

Article 11. Transfer of technology and know-how for the production of health products related to the pandemic

1. In order to enable sufficient, sustainable and geographically diversified production of pandemic-related health products, and taking into account its national situation, each Party (...)

(b) publishes the terms of its licenses for pandemic-related health technologies in a timely manner and in accordance with applicable law, and encourages private rights holders to do the same;

Although the state's obligation appears weak ("taking into account its national circumstances"), it is a welcome proposal aimed at resolving the problem of secrecy regarding licensing provisions related to the response to the Covid pandemic and invoking “commercial confidence”. States should be required to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability at all times, particularly when spending public money, even if "applicable law" may still offer an escape clause.

Article 12. Access and benefit-sharing system

2. The PABS system is based on the following foundations:

(f) not seek to obtain intellectual property rights in the PABS Materials and Information;

6. The terms, conditions and operational dimensions of the PABS system are defined in more detail in a legally binding instrument which will be operational no later than 31 May 2026.

Paragraph 2(f) was probably added to clarify what already existed. The principle relates only to the original material and information, excluding derived and modified material and information.

Paragraph 6 specifies that it will be a legally binding instrument. It will likely prompt states to negotiate a protocol as part of this pandemic deal if it passes.

Article 13. Supply chains and logistics

4. During a pandemic, emergency trade measures must be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary, and not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruptions in the supply chains of pandemic-related health products.

6. A multilateral system for managing compensation and liabilities related to vaccines and therapeutic products in the event of a pandemic should be considered.

Paragraph 4 is a more welcoming version of the former paragraph 13bis.3. The wording has been strengthened, moving from simply recognizing the importance of "targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary" emergency trade measures to introducing an obligation not to burden food supply chains. pandemic-related health products.

Paragraph 6 is considerably watered down compared to the previous draft (article 15 on liability and compensation mechanism). The explicit reference to a possible “no-fault compensation mechanism” regarding pandemic vaccines to be included in national strategies has been removed. The plan for states to make recommendations "for the establishment and implementation of national, regional and/or global no-fault compensation mechanisms and liability management strategies during pandemic emergencies" was replaced by a vague and weak consideration for a multilateral system for managing vaccine compensation and liability.

Article 13a. National public procurement

Each party shall publish the relevant terms of its purchasing agreements with pandemic-related health product manufacturers as soon as reasonably practicable, and exclude confidentiality provisions that serve to limit such disclosure, consistent with applicable laws, where applicable. . Regional and global purchasing mechanisms are also encouraged to do the same.

6. Each Party shall endeavor to ensure that, in contracts for the supply or purchase of new pandemic vaccines, buyer/beneficiary compensation clauses, where applicable, are exceptionally provided for and limited in the weather.

Overall, this arrangement is more reasonable. Similar to article 11.1.b.

Article 14. Strengthening regulations

3. Each Party, in accordance with applicable legislation:

(b) make public information on national and, where applicable, regional processes for authorization or approval of the use of pandemic-related health products, and adopt regulatory or other trust processes relevant regulatory pathways, if any, for those pandemic-related health products that may be activated during a pandemic to increase effectiveness, and updates this information in a timely manner.

Another vaguely worded proposal that seems inappropriate for a legally binding agreement. The term “pandemic-related health products” is extremely broad. This mirrors much of the agreement on pandemics and one wonders why it is still considered necessary, rather than simply relying on the 2005 voluntary version of the IHR.

Article 18. Communication and public awareness

1. The Parties shall strengthen the population's knowledge of science, public health and pandemics, as well as access to transparent, accurate, science-based and factual information regarding pandemics and their causes, effects and their drivers, particularly through risk communication and effective community engagement.

2. Parties shall, where appropriate, conduct research to inform policy on the factors that hinder or enhance adherence to public health and social measures in a pandemic, as well as trust in science and in public health institutions, authorities and agencies.

This article becomes shorter and more reasonable with only two paragraphs instead of four. The provisions relating to the obligation of parties to apply science- and evidence-based approaches to risk assessment (former paragraph 3) and to cooperate to prevent misinformation (former paragraph 4) have been deleted. Notably, the reference to “for the purpose of countering and addressing disinformation” in former paragraph 1 has also been removed. 1 was also removed. However, the very essence of the old paragraph remains, given the WHO's clear approach to stifling access and credibility of views contrary to its official line.

Article 20. Sustainable financing

1. The Parties shall strengthen sustainable and predictable financing, in an inclusive and transparent manner, for the implementation of this Agreement and the International Health Regulations (2005).

2. In this regard, each Party, within the limits of the means and resources at its disposal:

(b) mobilize additional financial resources to support Parties, in particular developing country Parties, in implementing the WHO Pandemic Agreement, including through grants and concessional loans ;

3. A Financial Coordination Mechanism (the Mechanism) is established to provide sustainable financial support, strengthen and expand pandemic prevention, preparedness and response capacities, and to provide any emergency response needed on a day-to-day basis. zero, particularly in developing country Parties. The mechanism shall, among other things:(e) mobilize voluntary monetary contributions for organizations and other entities supporting pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, without conflicts of interest, from relevant stakeholders, in particular those active in sectors that benefit from international work to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The new text relating to the financial coordination mechanism is quite diluted. The reference to the inclusion of an "innovative mechanism" including debt relief measures (former paragraph 20.2(c)) has been deleted. Paragraph (f) was added to recognize that state contributions will not be sufficient and that voluntary monetary contributions will be required from "relevant stakeholders", likely private companies; however, these contributions should be "free from conflicts of interest", without going into detail on how this can be ensured, but leaving the operational details to be worked out by the future conference of the parties.

It is difficult to understand how private companies or organizations active in this sector could be free from conflict (i.e. potential profits) if they support WHO in expanding its activities in this sector. A strong case could be made for excluding payments (and therefore influence) from the private sector.

source: Brownstone Institute 

David Bell, a senior scientist at the Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotechnology consultant in the field of global health. He was a physician and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), program manager for malaria and febrile illnesses at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and director of technology for global health at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

Thi Thuy Van Dinh (LLM, PhD) has worked on international law at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Subsequently, she managed partnerships with multilateral organizations for Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund and led efforts to develop environmental health technologies in low-resource settings.

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