Explainer-What is on (and off) the agenda of the WHO Assembly? -Breaking
Jennifer Rigby and Emma Farge
GENEVA, (Reuters) – Hundreds of diplomats and health ministers from all over the globe will gather in Geneva for the World Health Organization’s first meeting in person in three years. The U.N. agency is trying to determine its role in international health policy.
World Health Assembly (WHA’s) agenda is packed with the WHO’s most important events in its 75-year history. This historic event is seen by many as a chance to learn from the COVID-19 Pandemic which resulted to 15,000,000 deaths and plan for the next worldwide outbreak. [L5N2X96B0]
But many pressing matters, including reforming rules to prevent disease outbreaks from happening, will not be addressed in this meeting or discussed outside of it.
This is an overview of the topics to be covered:
SEE THE AGENDA ….
WHO FUNDS BOOST
Last month, donors agreed to a “pivotal” deal to raise their contributions gradually to the WHO budget until they reach half of it by 2030-219. In exchange, the WHO accepted to review their reform plans.
While their fees are only a small fraction (16%) the WHO total budget, it means the WHO cannot finance some programs because the money was earmarked to donors’ favorite projects. On Tuesday, the assembly approved this deal.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Ethiopian Director General was reelected by secret ballot Tuesday after facing criticism from his government and an emergency last year due to sexual abuse allegations against WHO staff members in Congo.
Tedros will also be renewing the main goals of the global agency for health, “triple billion”, which aim to increase universal coverage and improve well-being, and to protect more people in times of emergency.
A resolution was passed by the WHO Europe region against Russia last month. Tedros was asked to write a report regarding Ukraine’s medical emergency.
The resolution was prepared by members and will be up for vote at Thursday’s assembly. Diplomats however say that it won’t suspend Russia’s voting rights as some originally sought. Moscow prepared another resolution.
The International Health Regulations (IHR), which governs countries’ obligations in public health emergencies and other legal-binding regulations, will undergo reforms.
Steve Solomon, WHO chief legal officer, stated that the U.S. led effort will focus on expediting the application of future changes from 24 to 12 months. The plan has been opposed by Africa.
After a preliminary examination of COVID-19 early cases in China last January left many questions unanswered, the WHO appointed a panel to investigate the source of SARS-CoV-2. The WHO spokesperson stated that the report of the panel was due soon, but it would not be made public as part the assembly.
REFORM OF RULES
Diplomats claim that the majority of IHR reform negotiations are expected to take place within the next two years.
They include highly sensitive items such as Washington’s proposal to deploy expert teams at outbreak sites, and to create a compliance committee that monitors implementation of rules. A WHO document revealed this.
Diplomats claim that Russia also has submitted reforms.
Tedros seeks a new pandemic treaty because the IHR have been widely criticized as not sufficient for responding to a pandemic. The new treaty could include vaccine sharing rules and an end to wildlife markets.
The talks are scheduled to continue in June. A final treaty, whose legal status has yet to be established, won’t be completed until 2024.
G20 leaders have agreed to create a multi-billion-dollar global fund for preparedness in case of pandemics. This will be outside the WHO and likely at the World Bank. The WHO’s role is currently being determined and is not yet on the agenda.