WHO Director-General's opening remarks at first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response - 24 February 2022

I would like to begin by congratulating our newly elected co-chairs, Precious Matsoso and Roland Driece,

And our vice-chairs:

Ambassador Tovar da Silva Nunes;

Ahmed Salama Soliman;

Dr Viroj Tangcharoensathien;

And Kazuho Taguchi;

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, and I offer all of you a very warm welcome to WHO.

This is a momentous undertaking, and a necessary one. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the status quo is not good enough to protect our communities, our societies, and our economies.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in pandemic preparedness and response at both the national and the global levels:

Complex and fragmented governance and lack of leadership;

Inadequate financing;

And insufficient systems and tools.

Instead of solidarity, the pandemic has been marred by inequity.

Equity does not mean providing access to tools when there is a surplus, when the privileged have used what they need.

It is about timely access, so that all people have access to all the available tools, at the same time.

The lack of trust or the trust deficit between and within countries, partners and stakeholders has shattered our unified defence during the pandemic.

Voluntary mechanisms have not solved and will not solve these challenges.

Global health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or the vested interests of companies and shareholders.

Recognizing that our fates as a global community are intertwined, the World Health Assembly established this intergovernmental negotiating body during a special session, which, by the way, is only the second time it had held such an extraordinary meeting.

Today’s meeting is the start of an historic opportunity for Member States to work together to strengthen the world’s structures and systems for pandemic preparedness and response.

While we are operating under an ambitious timeline, we need to take the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and use them to build back better.

The aim should be a world better prepared to prevent pandemic threats and respond to them when they do occur, in at least five ways:

First, by building national, regional and global capacities for preparing and responding to pandemics and other global health emergencies, based on a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach;

Second, by establishing global access and benefit sharing for all pathogens, and determining a global policy for the equitable production and distribution of countermeasures;

Third, by establishing robust systems and tools for pandemic preparedness and response;

Fourth, by building a long-term plan for sustainable financing, so that support for global health threat management and response systems is shared by all;

And fifth, by empowering WHO to fulfil its mandate as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, including for pandemic preparedness and response

At the Special Session, the World Health Assembly specifically noted the importance of broad engagement to ensure a successful outcome. So we encourage all Member States to participate in this process and support the work of the INB, in developing a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Now begins the critical process of coming together around a common goal – health – for the future of our children and their children.

Together, let us chart a way forward, for this and future generations, to better prevent, prepare and respond to future pandemics and health emergencies.

I thank you.