By Faith Atieno

On the 1st of December, the World Health Assembly agreed to kick start a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

In a Special Session-the second-ever since WHO’s founding in 1948, the Health Assembly adopted a sole decision titled, “The World Together” which establishes an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention on protecting the world from future infectious diseases crises.

According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, the decision by the Assembly was historic in nature, vital in its mission, and represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the many flaws in the global system to protect people from pandemics: the most vulnerable people going without vaccines; health workers without needed equipment to perform their life-saving work; and ‘me-first’ approaches that stymie the global solidarity needed to deal with a global threat,” he said.

Meanwhile, he added, there has been inspiring demonstrations of scientific and political collaboration, from the rapid development of vaccines, to today’s commitment by countries to negotiate a global accord that will help to keep future generations safer from the impacts of pandemics.

Under the decision adopted, the INB will hold its first meeting by 1 March 2022 (to agree on ways of working and timelines) and its second by 1 August 2022 (to discuss progress on a working draft).

Besides, it will also hold public hearings to inform its deliberations; deliver a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023; and submit its outcome for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.