LOS ANGELES (January 24, 2022) As the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) kicks off today a week of deliberations in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, AIDS Healthcare Foundation calls on Member States to commit to a substantive overhaul of the global public health system that enshrines the principles of equity, transparency, accountability and cooperation in a new legally binding convention or treaty.
“The pandemic is the result of decades of ‘business as usual’ mindset on public health at the UN and WHO. A fire alarm is useless if the firetruck doesn’t show up. If the outcome of these ongoing negotiations is anything other than a fundamental reform of the global public health framework – before long, we will be fighting another pandemic fire, with equally poor results,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “After millions of deaths and a devastating economic toll, the world has high expectations from our leaders to deliver change. Another half-baked, bureaucratic resolution is not going to cut it – we need a Global Public Health Convention with real power to protect people and ensure equity around the world.”
Because treaty negotiations under the mandate of the World Health Assembly are highly dependent on reaching consensus, any legal instrument is at risk of being diluted to the least contentious, and consequently least effective language. Two such examples have already cropped up: China is objecting to a provision which would give WHO the authority to directly investigate outbreaks in countries, and a proposal to raise assessed contributions to fund the WHO has been vetoed by several countries. As the negotiations continue, decision makers must remember that a treaty is not the goal in itself, but rather a means to prevent another public health catastrophe. The world needs strong leadership and action from the WHO – not watered-down consensus.
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