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The pivotal meeting in the global health calendar begins on Sunday with representatives from ministries of health around the world descending on Geneva to make decisions on health policy.
While much diplomacy will take place at private receptions and meetings, the first fully in-person World Health Assembly in two years is expected to adopt several decisions that will begin to shape how the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the 194 members of the World Health Organization.
But it will not be the defining moment in the history of the World Health Organization. Many of the consequent decisions, such as those related to the pandemic treaty and changes to the International Health Regulations, will not happen until years from now. Even matters that are likely to be agreed upon at the Assembly, such as the future budget of the World Health Organization and timelines for increasing the budget, Spanning years into the future.
Helen Clark, co-chair of the Independent Commission on Epidemic Preparedness and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, said her message to the assembly’s health ministers would be “Don’t give up on fighting COVID-19”. Speaking at the release of the panel’s report that found it would take global years to prepare for the next pandemic if it continued at the current pace, Clark said the association needs to “look at the big picture of all required reforms as one.”
With a long agenda of 73 items, it is one of the busiest in the organization’s history, but Politico takes you through the four most important elements to Watch:
Prepare for the next pandemic
Right-wing media critics have claimed that the World Health Assembly is the right moment for the World Health Organization to seize the giant’s power to give it sweeping powers over state sovereignty. The truth is that the most controversial proposal – for a pandemic treaty – was not even on the assembly’s agenda.
What was supposed to be considered were US-proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations, a legally binding law that governs how countries respond to health threats. The broad proposal from the United States suggested giving the World Health Organization greater powers to share information from countries experiencing events that could endanger public health. But decisions on this now To be latewith countries that have agreed to a watered-down proposal regarding procedural decisions on when changes to regulations will take effect.
The most substantive document that countries will consider is a Report From the Task Force on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies. This week, the group was still debating the final version of the report and the actions it wanted to take at the assembly. Any decisions in the report will likely focus on the process of amending the regulations.
“There is a burgeoning sense of business as usual that we need to reset,” said Eloise Todd, co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “We hope that the communication and conversations [at the WHA] It could build on progress at the global Covid summit and lead to a little more mainstream thinking about how to restart that agenda, so that things like WHO funding, like WHO reform, like the International Health Regulations, aren’t pushed down the list, But actually getting booted to the top.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine is likely to be on the agenda. a draft resolution Led by Ukraine, Politico said it “condemns in the strongest terms Russian military aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on health care facilities” and calls on Russia to stop these attacks and protect medical personnel.
Most importantly, it states that “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine constitutes exceptional circumstances.” This is a requirement under the WHO Constitution for the World Health Assembly to potentially suspend voting privileges and services to which a country is entitled. The document raises the possibility of taking such action against Russia if it continues to negatively affect health care in Ukraine.
If a resolution is put forward, it is likely to be put to a vote by the members.
It is the constantly discussed and never resolved issue that has plagued the WHO – by anyone’s standards, the WHO’s core funding is too small and leaves the organization in a persistently weak position. Finally, it looks like there’s been a real movement here but as usual, change won’t happen anytime soon.
Working Group on Sustainable Finance Proposal Increase countries’ assessed contributions to 50 percent of the base budget by 2030-2031. This means that WHO will get much more of its funding from regular assessed contributions from countries rather than from earmarked contributions.
The signs look promising from Friday’s G7 health ministers meeting. “The World Health Organization, which plays an essential coordinating role in global health, will be financially strengthened,” the German Ministry of Health, which hosted the meeting, said in a statement. The G7 wants to increase its mandatory contributions by 50 percent in the long term so that the WHO can better exercise its leadership role.”
Also on the agenda is a proposal for clinical trials – initially from the UK and now co-sponsored by Argentina. As with the report on Health Emergency Preparedness, the discussion has moved to wires. The Draft Resolution Calls on countries to coordinate on research priorities and to avoid duplication of experiments. Some of the measures required include mechanisms to ensure that trial results are reported including negative results; Sharing pre-publication results with regulatory agencies and mandatory registration of clinical trials in the registry.
Louis Westendarp contributed reporting.
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