Members agree to boost WHO, fastrack global pandemic response

Geneva, Switzerland: Members of the World Health Organization agreed on Monday to strengthen the global organization at the center of the pandemic response by providing it with more stable and flexible funding to better deal with future outbreaks.

The 194 member states also decided to "strengthen WHO's capability to swiftly and adequately analyze disease outbreaks" of potentially global significance in a 14-page resolution passed on the last day of the virtual annual World Health Assembly.

According to the findings of three independent teams that reported to the assembly, countries and institutions were poorly unprepared to deal with Covid-19.

They demanded a complete reform of the worldwide warning system, as well as a stronger, more autonomous WHO to aid in the prevention of future pandemics.

According to one of the investigations, the UN body took too long to declare a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern." On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization issued its highest level of alert.

After days of deliberation, members agreed to form a new working group to examine and condense the various recommendations contained in the reports, as well as to develop tangible suggestions for consideration at next year's assembly.

Member nations were urged to "provide adequate, flexible, sustainable, and predictable financing of WHO's program budget," according to the document.

Regular membership payments provide for only around 16% of the WHO budget, with the rest coming from voluntary and heavily earmarked contributions.

All countries were also urged to develop their fundamental public health capacities, improve their ability to detect new hazards, and effectively convey such concerns both domestically and internationally, according to Monday's resolution.

To ensure that all countries do their part, the UN Human Rights Council also directed WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to consider launching a pilot project in which countries submit to regular peer reviews of their pandemic preparedness by other members, similar to how they submit to reviews of their human rights situations before the UN Human Rights Council.

Meanwhile, the resolution fell short of expressly endorsing the experts' request that the WHO be given more authority to conduct investigations and speak about health hazards without waiting for approval from the countries involved.

Countries also decided to postpone discussions about whether or not to create an international treaty to prepare for the next global pandemic until later this year.

They ordered Tedros to convene a special session of the assembly in late November "dedicated to considering the benefits of developing a WHO convention, agreement or another international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response".

In the WHO's 73-year history, only two international treaties have been drafted under its auspices: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and the International Health Regulations in 2005.

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