Media coverage of the WHO pandemic treaty negotiations (on transparency and content) – First quarter, 2023

Media coverage of the WHO pandemic treaty negotiations (on transparency and content) – March/April 2023

2 February 2023, Reuters, Draft WHO pandemic deal pushes for equity to avoid COVID ‘failure’ repeat, By Jennifer Rigby and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber.

    However, there will be “heat and opposition” in the negotiations ahead, particularly around the intellectual property provisions, said James Love, director of the NGO Knowledge Ecology International.

    “The provisions on transparency and equity are impressive,” Love said, “but I think negotiators need to do more work on how to create incentives for governments and others to both invest and share technologies”


3 March 2023, Geneva Health Files, Pandemic Accord Negotiations: Away from Public Glare, but Center of Attention, Priti Patnaik.

    This week member states reiterated their decision on limiting NSAs’ participation and decided against letting them in as observers to drafting group sessions. A number of civil society actors expressed disappointment on being excluded to participate in these negotiations even if as observers. Some highlighted the expertise they bring and their connection to communities on the ground.

    Health Action International said: “we would like to strongly reaffirm the legitimacy of public interest civil society to participate in this and other international processes, not only as providers of expertise and knowledge but as recipients of a mandate to transmit the voice and grievances of communities, individuals and parties too often overlooked, persecuted or taken for granted by far too many governments and organisations.”

10 March 2023, Geneva Observer, Check-up time for the WHO’s pandemic treaty, Philippe Mottaz & Jamil Chade.

    But in an ironic turn of events, despite their relationship being at its lowest ebb, China and the US moved together to exclude sharing the draft treaty with non-state actors.

    For Thiru Balasubramaniam, Geneva representative of the NGO Knowledge Ecology International, this decision has set a “dangerous precedent.” He fears, among other things, that the pharma industry, close to many governments, will eventually find ways to have access to the draft documents and sway the deliberations.

10 March 2023, Universo Online (UOL), Governo Lula e países ricos racham em negociação sobre pacto pós-covid, Jamil Chade.

    Mas as polêmicas não demoraram para aparecer. Quando o primeiro rascunho do texto foi apresentado, o governo dos EUA barrou a possibilidade de que o documento pudesse ser compartilhado com a sociedade civil, causando indignação.

    Para Thiru Balasubramaniam, representante da entidade Knowledge Ecology International, o gesto é um “precedente perigoso”. O temor da sociedade civil e de países em desenvolvimento é de que o conteúdo chegue até a indústria farmacêutica. Mas não para ativistas de direitos humanos, criando um desequilíbrio importante no processo negociador.

4 April 2023, Geneva Health Files, Price Caps, Tiered Pricing, Stockpiling, in the EU’s Textual Proposals for Pandemic Accord. Its Imprint on the WHO Medical Countermeasures Platform, Priti Patnaik.

5 April 2023, Financial Times, Countries wrangle over definition of ‘pandemic’ in race to agree treaty – WHO targets 2024 for new agreement on pandemics but nations disagree on basic principles, Donato Mancini.

    Countries negotiating a crucial treaty designed to shape the world’s response to future pandemics have so far struggled to agree key points including the basic definition of a pandemic, despite targeting a rapid timetable for a deal in 2024.

    The annotated “zero”, or early, draft of the intergovernmental group developing the treaty at the World Health Organization, seen by the Financial Times, shows a complex debate between countries about whether any outbreak deemed a “pandemic” would have to be viral, transmit from human to human, or affect populations with low immunity, among other points.

    Thiru Balasubramaniam, Geneva representative of Knowledge Ecology International, a group that advocates for patent reform, said the “clock was ticking”.

    “Stark divisions on the definition of [a] pandemic, and principles language on equity and transparency provide a barometer for tough discussions on intellectual property, access to pandemic countermeasures, transfer of technology and knowhow, and the financing of research and development,” he said.

6 April 2023, Health Policy Watch, US Accused of Supporting ‘Veil of Secrecy’ Over Pandemic Accord Negotiations, As WHO Extends Countries’ Textual Deadline, Kerry Cullinan.

6 April 2023, Politico, Rich vs. poor: Countries deeply divided on pandemic treaty, Ashleigh Furlong.

    A leaked draft of the negotiating text for an international treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, dated March 3 and obtained by POLITICO, shows opposing suggestions from dozens of countries. And negotiators have only just begun, with current edits focused on the definitions, objective and principles of the treaty, rather than the meat of the proposal.

    Knowledge Ecology International director James Love said that what’s being seen is a return to “more traditional positions and alignments” influenced by departments other than health, such as trade or industry, “where precedents for particular wordings are often a larger concern than subject matter.” But Love is not overly pessimistic, saying that he would wait to see what happens with the “more consequential chapters” such as those on intellectual property and equity to see how far apart negotiators are.

The 3 March 2023 annotated version of the WHO INB zero draft (published by Politico) can be found here: PoliticoDraft of the WHO pandemic treaty as seen onscreen on March 3, 2023.

7 April 2023, Geneva Health Files, Difficult Negotiations, But Countries Win More Time to Suggest Language to the Zero Draft, Fight Back Efforts to Slow Process [INB5 WRAP], Priti Patnaik.

13 April 2023, Politico, Document: US defangs intellectual property provisions in draft pandemic treaty, Ashleigh Furlong.

    The U.S. wants to significantly water down provisions on intellectual property rights in the international pandemic treaty that World Health Organization countries are negotiating.

    In the text dated April 4, which covers more ground than an earlier version reported on by POLITICO, the U.S. seeks to remove the most controversial elements around transferring technology, including language that calls for measures such as waiving intellectual property rights for pandemic products and requiring manufacturers to share technology and know-how with others.

    In the April 4 version of the pandemic treaty, the U.S., along with the U.K., asks for the deletion of a paragraph that would see countries take measures to “support time-bound waivers of intellectual property rights” to speed up the manufacturing of pandemic products.

    Other weakening of the provisions in the text include the U.S. proposing to replace language requiring manufacturers of pandemic-related products to transfer technology and know-how to other manufacturers on mutually agreed terms — a proviso that Brazil wants deleted altogether.

The 4 April 2023 annotated version of the WHO INB zero draft (published by Politico) can be found here:

15 April 2023, The Lancet, Calls for transparency in pandemic accord talks, Talha Burki.

    The zero draft repeatedly stresses the value of transparency. Nonetheless, some experts are concerned that the most important negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. Countries have until April 22, 2023, to provide written comments on the zero draft. On April 5, several individuals and non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam and Knowledge Ecology International, sent a letter to the US Government questioning the country’s demand that the annotated version of the zero draft be kept from public view.

    James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International, noted that “experience has shown the negotiating text will be available to drug companies, almost in real time. It is important that the text be made public, both to avoid the asymmetries of power that come from unequal access to information [and] to get the best feedback on proposals”.