The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) held its 2nd meeting in Geneva. Members agreed that a new international instrument on pandemic prevention should be legally binding. The INB is aiming to ensure better preparedness and a more equitable response for future pandemics. It will next meet in December 2022 and will deliver a progress report to the World Health Assembly in May 2023. INB members are working to conclude this agreement by May 2024. GCH follows the process closely and continues to serve as a platform to make the positions and interests of local and regional governments (LRGs) known and reflected in the final agreement.
The first draft already talks about the role of local governments. We believe that we can go further.
PPR must systemically be integrated into whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to recovery and thereby break the cycle of “panic and neglect”. “Measures to delegate authority to local governments during pandemics, in accordance with the country context should be taken into account” in developing international, regional or national legislative, administrative and technical measures for PPR. GCH advocates for mayors, as the leaders closest to the communities, to play a crucial role when implementing “measures to promote and strengthen the engagement/participation of communities in all elements of PPR to ensure their ownership of and contribution to national readiness and resilience, including public health and social measures.”
Covid-19 reminded us all of that the threat of pandemics is a reality with serious potential health, social, economic and political consequences, that most often hit local and regional governments. The document acknowledges the importance “to engage with all relevant actors in the design, development and implementation of the comprehensive system for access and benefit sharing”. Therefore, we commend the multi-stakeholder approach by WHO and make sure that the valuable experiences of mayors and city-leaders are injected into the decision-making process.
The INB’s work aims to ensure better preparedness and equitable response for future pandemics, and to advance the principles of equity, solidarity and health for all. Most see as the key issue down the line as whether countries want to delegate powers for the WHO to investigate the sources of outbreaks. But it is perhaps even more important to make sure that LRGs may influence the process since they are often the ones implementing measures on the ground. Their experiences and voices are primordial to be heard in the process.