On Wednesday, 15 April 2020, the European Union submitted a zero draft of a resolution for the World Health Assembly entitled WHA73: “Covid-19 Response”; this text was accompanied by a note verbale. The note verbale stated the following:
We understand that the 73rd World Health Assembly may meet in a virtual session in May with a single substantive point on the agenda – COVID-19. We are living in extraordinary times and we see this Assembly as an extraordinary opportunity for Health Ministers of all WHO Member States to demonstrate their solidarity and their common resolve to overcome the challenges we all face in responding to this pandemic.
This virus knows no borders and neither should our collective response. It is only by working together on the response, in cooperation with all partners and in support and under the leadership of WHO that we will prevail.
To that end, and without prejudice to any Decision of the WHO Executive Board on then organisation of a World Health Assembly in May, the Delegation of the European Union is pleased to send herewith an initial draft for a Resolution by the 73rd WHA. We do this because time is of the essence and we wanted to share our thoughts with all of you as soon as possible. Our intention is to organise an inclusive process to permit informal consultations to take place on this text and we are currently working with the Secretariat on the best way to organise these. We have also created a functional mailbox at the Delegation to receive any comments or suggestions on the draft text.
The text of the EU draft resolution numbers six pages. In the operative section directed at the WHO Director-General, operative paragraph 5.17 states the following:
“OP5.17 Draft a plan, in consultation with Member States, in line with their respective obligations resulting from international treaties and with inputs from relevant international organizations including WIPO, GAVI, UNITAID, the Medicines Patent Pool, CEPI, the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, and UNICEF, to achieve equitable access to quality, safe, and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines and other health technologies necessary for COVID-19 response, for consideration of the WHO Governing Bodies;”
Operative paragraph 5.16 underscores the importance of WHO’s prequalification programme to facilitate the “rapid processing and assessment of COVID-19 related requests”.
“OP5.16 Ensure that the WHO prequalification programme, working with regulatory authorities in Member States and at the regional level, facilitates the rapid processing and assessment of COVID-19 related requests;”
The EU resolution calls for the WHO to work on a comprehensive covid-19 response with the United Nations Secretary-General:
“OP5.1 Work with the United Nations Secretary-General on a comprehensive and coordinated response across the UN system and on assisting countries in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Continue to assume leadership on health in the UN system overall response, to support countries’ national responses, and to act as the health cluster lead in the UN humanitarian response;”
In relation to shortages, the EU resolution notes:
“OP5.10 Update, as the situation evolves, the list of critical items for COVID-19 response, and continue assessing the magnitude and nature of global shortages and supporting national authorities in their supply-related planning;”
The EU resolution recognizes WHO’s leading normative role in the covid-19 response:
“OP5.11 Continue to develop necessary guidelines, protocols, other normative products and technical guidance for COVID-19 response, including on preventive measures, standardized diagnostics and clinical protocols, based on expert scientific advice and translated in WHO’s six official languages, to make them publicly available in a timely manner and make easily available the latest scientific evidence and facilitate the application of the main conclusions in practice;”
In the operative section(OP4.2) directed at international actors, partners, civil society, public health institutions and the private sector, the European Union calls on these actors to:
“OP4.2 Work collaboratively at international level to develop, test and produce safe, effective, quality diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for the COVID-19 response, and to facilitate the equitable and affordable access of people to them, including through voluntarily pooling their intellectual property for all COVID-19-related medical interventions;”
In relation to covid-19 and R&D, the European Union resolution calls on member states to:
OP3.9 Invest in and support research and development of diagnostics, treatments, therapeutics, medicines, and vaccines as appropriate and to sustainably strengthen national R&D capacities for the current and future outbreaks, and collaborate in order to harmonise efforts as appropriate, with all relevant international actors in this field;
The full text of of the EU draft resolution can be found here:
The text of the note verbale can be found here: