On the occasion of the Special Session of the World Health Assembly (29 November – 1 December 2021), where the WHO Member States agreed by consensus to begin a global process to draft and negotiate an international instrument (1) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, ESMO delivered an official statement calling for all response to health emergencies to be legally binding and to:
- Reinforce health as a fundamental right,
- Promote health and reduce health risk factors,
- Build up and protecting the health workforce,
- Maintain the provision of healthcare services for people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer.
ESMO also requested that health authorities and administrators provide ethical and methodological guidelines on how hospitals and health workers should make decisions where financial and physical resources must be re-allocated or are in shortage.
ESMO has already raised awareness of this critical topic for healthcare professionals (Public Policy Webinar on Bedside Rationing), especially relevant during health emergencies.
ESMO also requested the participation of all stakeholders in future discussions and to consider to leverage their evidence-based resources such as those on the ESMO COVID-19 and Cancer portal.
ESMO looks forward to participating in the process to draft and negotiate an international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and to sharing its evidence-based resources to support WHO’s and its Member State’s efforts to ensure a healthier and safer world.
This was the second WHO Special Session since its founding in 1948, with one topic on the agenda: “The World Together: Establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating body to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response”. During their deliberations, the WHO Member States requested strengthening the existing and legally binding framework of the International Health Regulations of 2005, and avoiding duplication or overlap with a future international instrument for a framework for global collaboration. Several key issues were prioritised:
- Ensuring equity addressing issues such as capacity-building, medical countermeasures such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, as well as barriers to their equitable and timely access and distribution. Equity is also relevant to issues such as research and development, intellectual property, technology transfer and empowering/scaling up local and regional manufacturing capacity during emergencies, while working towards achieving universal health coverage.
- Adopting a One Health Approach necessary to address and encompass human, animal and planetary health, as well as a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to health and health emergencies.
- Addressing prevention, rapid risk assessment, detection and response to strengthen the collective efforts to prepare and respond effectively to outbreaks of disease with pandemic potential.
- Strengthening WHO and providing it with adequate and sustainable financing, enabling its leading and coordinating role in global health
- Enhancing surge capacity, through striving to achieve universal health coverage and health system strengthening, including strengthening primary health care, the health workforce and social protection.
- Addressing misinformation, disinformation and stigmatisation that undermine public health.
The International Negotiating Body will provide a progress report to the 2023 World Health Assembly for consideration by the 2024 World Health Assembly.
- To date the only other legally binding instrument established under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution is the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.