WHO member states agree to draft a zero-draft legally binding pandemic agreement in early 2023

  • Countries meet for three days to agree next steps towards a historic legal instrument rooted in the WHO Constitution designed to protect the world from future pandemics.
  • During the discussions, member states call for a global agreement that respects justice, promotes preparedness, ensures solidarity and respects sovereignty.
  • The zero draft of the pandemic agreement should be able to be negotiated by the member states from February 2023.

Member States of the World Health Organization today agreed to draft the first draft of a legally binding agreement aimed at protecting the world from future pandemics. This “zero draft” of the pandemic agreement, which is enshrined in the WHO constitution, will be discussed by the member states in February 2023.

Today’s agreement by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), made up of the 194 WHO Member States, was a milestone in the global process to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent a repeat of the devastating effects it is having on individuals and communities had communities worldwide. The INB met at WHO headquarters in Geneva from 5 to 7 December for its third session since its inception in December 2021, following a special session of the World Health Assembly.

The panel today agreed that the INB office will develop the Zero Draft Pandemic Agreement to start negotiations at the fourth INB meeting, scheduled to begin on February 27, 2023. This draft will be based on the neutral conceptual draft and discussions during this week’s INB meeting. The INB office consists of six delegates, one from each of the six WHO regions, including Co-Chairs Mr. Roland Driece from the Netherlands and Ms. Precious Matsoso from South Africa.

“Countries have sent a clear message that the world needs to be better prepared, coordinated and supported to protect everyone everywhere from a repeat of COVID-19,” said Mr. Driece, co-chair of the INB office. “The decision to charge us with the duty to develop a zero-draft pandemic agreement is an important milestone on the journey to making the world a safer place.”

INB Office co-chair Ms. Matsoso said government officials stressed that any future pandemic deal must consider justice, strengthen preparedness, ensure solidarity, promote a whole-of-society and government-wide approach, and respect countries’ sovereignty.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives, economies and societies in general must never be forgotten,” Ms. Matsoso said. “The best chance we have today as a global community to prevent a repeat of the past is to come together in a spirit of solidarity, a commitment to justice and the pursuit of health for all, and a global accord that protects societies from future ones pandemic threats.”

The WHO Pandemic Memorandum of Understanding is under review with a view to its adoption under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, without prejudice to the adequacy of Article 21 to be reviewed in the course of the work.

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