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Published in: 02/19/2024

PAHO calls fourth meeting of Americas countries on future global pandemic agreement

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The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) convened countries from the Americas for a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the progress of negotiations on a possible future global pandemic agreement. The objective of the two-day meeting, which concluded on Friday (02/16), was to review the key components of the preliminary document to be presented in May for approval by the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The process of drafting and negotiating a new convention is led by the Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) and aims to strengthen preparation and response to future pandemics through an instrument that promotes greater global collaboration and political commitment.

PAHO Director Jarbas Barbosa, speaking virtually at the meeting, emphasized that the participation of Americas countries in the deliberations is "crucial" to ensure that the future agreement takes into account their needs and characteristics. Furthermore, he stated that the agreement must ensure fair and equitable access to treatment, vaccines, and personal protective equipment in the next pandemic. "A new instrument represents an opportunity to protect future generations," he said.

The meeting, convened by the PAHO director, brought together representatives from the Ministries of Health of the Americas and their diplomatic missions to the United Nations in Geneva. The meeting served as a prelude to the eighth and penultimate session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which begins on February 19, and discussions are intensifying to reach a global consensus on a document.

Delegates from the Americas highlighted their commitment to working towards a pandemic agreement with equity and finding common ground to reach a regional consensus that can better position the region in the negotiations.

PAHO, as the regional office of WHO for the Americas, supported the countries of the region in the deliberations on the agreement and provided technical and logistical support to facilitate participation in global discussions.

As a lesson learned from the response to COVID-19, the fundamental role of PAHO's Revolving Funds was highlighted, and the importance of incorporating these funds into the developing pandemic agreement as part of the proposed global infrastructure to ensure equitable access to supplies, equipment, medicines, vaccines, and other essential products.

In 2023, the Organization convened three regional meetings involving national authorities from all countries of the Americas.

If negotiations on a future pandemic convention are successful, this agreement will be the third legally binding international instrument agreed upon by WHO Member States, following the International Health Regulations (IHR) - which aims to prevent the international spread of diseases and whose amendments are also under discussion - and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.