A compromise has been reached by World Health Organization member countries on changes to the rules that govern how countries respond to health crises.
The World Health Assembly — the annual meeting of WHO member countries — adopted a US-led resolution that sets the timeline for amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) to come into force. The resolution was nearly scuppered after several countries including the Africa group, indicated that they had reservations about it.
Loyce Pace, assistant secretary for global affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services, had previously indicated that they needed consensus to go forward. She said the US was willing to continue discussions after the assembly if agreement couldn’t be reached.
The IHR dictates how countries should report on a potential new public health threat and set out the WHO’s role. However, assessments of the response to the pandemic have indicated that the regulations fell short and need to be strengthened.
Under the compromise, officially agreed on by countries on Friday evening, countries will have 10 months to reject an amendment to the health regulations instead of nine months, as appeared in an earlier draft text. What has remained in the text is that any amendment to the regulations will come into effect in 12 months. That shaves a year off the current timeline.
A new paragraph added to the text refers to another decision taken at the assembly that will see a working group discuss future IHR amendments. The new text also states that this group will look at amendments to “address specific and clearly identified issues, challenges, including equity, technological or other developments, or gaps that could not effectively be addressed otherwise.”
This article is part of POLITICO Pro
The one-stop-shop solution for policy professionals fusing the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology
Exclusive, breaking scoops and insights
Customized policy intelligence platform
A high-level public affairs network