During a November 2021 special session, WHO member States agreed to establish an International Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response. A draft text is expected for 1 August 2022. The final agreement is to be finalised by May 2024 for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly.
An agreement might shape future responses to pandemic threats, reaching from the power to declare it to response measures. Drawing from the Covid-19 pandemic, those could include measures like lockdowns, physical distancing, or mandatory vaccinations that directly or indirectly curtail fundamental rights. A rights-based approach can help guarantee a proportionate balancing of the different fundamental rights. That is why the inclusion of parliaments in the debate is essential.
Experts identified that WHO's current financing model poses risks to integrity and independence of its work. WHO’s over-reliance on voluntary contributions, with a large proportion earmarked for specific areas of work, results in ongoing misalignment between organisational priorities and the ability to finance them. In the 2020-21 budget biennium, assessed contributions (membership dues) represented only 16% of the approved programme budget.
Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 2329 (2020) called on an “effective and independent, ideally parliamentary oversight” of the WHO, “at international level, through IPU, and at regional level, through regional parliamentary assemblies, like the Assembly for WHO Europe region”. Likewise, the Assembly recommended that, for pandemic preparedness, the UN ensures international oversight and accountability.
The Assembly considers it of great importance to formulate its vision on such an international agreement, as it must be anchored in respect for human rights, addressing principles of the right to health, equity, solidarity, transparency, trust, accountability, and its alignment with Council of Europe Conventions like the Oviedo Convention and the European Social Charter.