Dennis Francis, President of the 78th General Assembly, opened the High Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response.
Alongside him sat the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed; the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom; Senior Managing Director of the World Bank Group, Mr Axel van Trotsenburg and the former Co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Helen Clark.
The purpose of the one day meeting of Heads of State and Government, convened by the UN in collaboration with the WHO, was to adopt a Political Declaration (attached below) aimed at mobilising political solidarity and momentum for a global response on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
Within minutes of opening the meeting, Dennis Francis “adopted” the Political Declaration to great applause subject to “formal adoption” by the General Assembly “at a later date”. However, as a consequence of eleven member nations (Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Islamic Republic of Iran, Nicaragua, Russia Federation, Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela and Zimbabwe) lodging objections, the formal adoption by the General Assembly is by no means guaranteed. This is well explained in this article by UK Citizen’s friend in the USA, James Roguski: https://jamesroguski.substack.com/p/high-level-united-nations-bullshit.
The opening remarks of Dennis Francis can be listened to here:
Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina J Mohammed focused on finance whilst also mentioning the detrimental impact Covid-19 had on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; misinformation and “complex global shocks” (and the associated UN “Emergency Platform”). Her full speech can be read here: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2023-09-20/secretary-generals-remarks-the-high-level-meeting-pandemic-prevention-preparedness-and-response
World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opening remarks can be read here: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/who-director-generals-opening-remarks-high-level-meeting-pandemic-prevention-preparedness-and-response-20-september-2023
Co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Helen Clark, said WHO Member States must reach agreement on the WHO CA+ that puts equity at the centre of the global response and agree to revisions to the IHR (2005) that empower the WHO to “sound the alarm rapidly with evidence and without bureaucracy” and that the two processes in Geneva “must be ambitious”.
Clark also commented on R&D and tech transfers stating, “There has to be a pre-negotiated and financed end-to-end ecosystem for medical countermeasures,” and that, “Every region on Earth needs the technology, the knowledge and the local capacity to stop outbreaks when and where they occur and essential supplies to safeguard human life must be accessible. No country should be at the mercy of global markets to protect their citizens.”
Mr Axel van Trotsenburg of the World Bank group focused on financing. He confirmed Pandemic Fund Pledges of $2 billion from 133 countries but said that at least $10 billion annually is required for pandemics.
The floor was then opened to Heads of State and Governments (very few were in attendance) after which the session moved into Plenary where we heard from health ministers from various Member Nations.
Andrew Mitchell (Conservative MP for Sutton Coalfield and Minister of State) represented the UK. He stated that Covid-19 was the “outstanding international challenge of our lifetime” and as such illustrates the need for an “effective international rules based system” to handle future pandemics.
He stated being prepared for the next crisis means two things,“1) Provision of help to lower and middle income countries so that they can withstand health threats. Britain is committed to just that. To help strengthen health systems, this is the bedrock of effective pandemic prevention, preparedness and response to boost collaboration on research and development including clinical trials and data sharing, to help to improve coordination across the human, animal and environmental health sectors and to work with partners to ensure that the “safe and effective” vaccines, medicines and tests are available to all during pandemics to all who need them when they need them and regardless of financial barriers. Today, on behalf of the British government, I am announcing over £370 million to strengthen global security. This will help tackle deadly disease in Africa, expand the UK vaccine network program and establish research and technical partnerships in Africa and the Indo-Pacific and; 2) We must improve multi-lateral cooperation. Central to this are the negotiations in Geneva on a new pandemic accord and agree measures to improve pandemic prevention, preparedness and response whilst respecting national sovereignty. This is not, Mr President, about enforcing any sort of one size fits all rules and regulations, it’s about those who can coming to the aid and support of those who can’t.”
He then went on to mention the need for reform of the international financial institutions to assist lower and middle income countries and the need for investment in the Pandemic Fund and other similar funds.
Stephen Donnelly spoke on behalf of Ireland. He stated Ireland’s commitment to an equitable and robust multilateral approach to pandemic preparedness, prevention and response and the importance of solidarity amongst the globe health community. Ireland places the WHO at the “heart” of the global health infrastructure.
During the Plenary, just as was evidenced in the latest meetings of both the INB and the WGIHR, it was evident that countries differ in their areas of focus. National sovereignty, which UK Citizen has been lobbying MPs about for some considerable time was mentioned by only a few countries, the UK being one. The representative of the Ministry of People’s Power for Health and Social Protection in Venezuela stated, “it’s not possible to have a world that is stronger to face pandemics if we do not have a world that is stronger when it comes to self-determination and international law”. There was widespread support for the centrality of the WHO to global health, One Health and SDGs, with several country representatives mentioning “equity” and a few referring to The Summit of the Future (to take place in 2024).
Multi-stakeholder panels were also held.
Many of the speakers, including the World Health Organisation Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Andrew Mitchell of the UK, suggested that lessons have been learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and that perhaps the adoption of the Political Declaration signals that. However, can lessons be learned without the acknowledgment that authoritarian policies were rolled out by the WHO and governments across the globe which stripped the people of fundamental human rights and freedoms (thereby violating international law) and devastated economies all for a virus with a global fatality rate of less than 0.15%? Will a new pandemic treaty and amended International Health Regulations legitimise such abuse and thus making such devastation ever more likely?
Zero Draft Political Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response: