WHA 77 – Constituency statement of Knowledge Ecology International, Health Action International, Oxfam, World Blind, Union and World Council of Churches – WHO Pandemic Accord

On Tuesday, 28 May 2024, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) delivered this constituency statement on behalf of KEI, Health Action International, Oxfam, World Blind Union, and the World Council of Churches on the following topic: Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Negotiations at WHO on a pandemic instrument have reached an impasse as member states have differing views on how to make access to pandemic-related health products more equitable. Whereas world leaders emphasized in 2020 that nobody is safe until everyone is safe, some now give primacy to industrial and trade goals at the expense of health. We reject this approach.

The negotiations of a Pandemic Accord were unnecessarily secret and opaque, undermining public trust not only in the seriousness of the leaders’ claims but also the whole endeavor. Secrecy hinders accountability of the governments shaping the agreement, and further marginalizes and shuts out the public, academic experts, public interest civil society, and others who were unable to bear the costs to attend the meetings in person or secure necessary visas and permits.

The few provisions in the draft agreement on transparency were welcome, but fall short of the more ambitious standards in the milestone 2019 WHO resolution on transparency (WHA72.8).

An important issue in the Pandemic Agreement are those relating to the transfer of technology which fosters equity.

The transfer of technology can involve a variety of measures, particularly for complex medicines with challenging regulatory pathways. Authorizations to use patented inventions are one mechanism. Others address access to necessary know-how and materials used in manufacturing, such as working cell lines, or rights to access and rely upon information from regulatory filings. Voluntary agreements are important, but when not available or adequate, WHO members need to have legal and policy space to regulate or use other measures of a mandatory nature.

We advocate for a binding international instrument to enable a more coordinated, more effective, faster and fairer global response to pandemics and other health emergencies in the future. There is no greater failure than to stop trying and no higher stakes than to making sure that everybody everywhere has timely access to health products. WHO member states must continue discussing the Pandemic Agreement, with equity at its core.