Director-General Tedros addresses WHO Member States at their resumed negotiations of a pandemic accord


WHO Director-General remarks at the resumed session of the 9th meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB9)

Geneva, 03 May 2024

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, addressed the WHO Member States today at the resumed ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB).  The Member States have gathered in Geneva this week to continue their negotiations on a proposed WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The INB Co-Chairs, Dr Precious Matsoso and Mr Ronald Driece, and Dr Jaouad Mahjour and Mr Steve Solomon of WHO will provide a stocktake following this first week of resumed negotiations at a virtual press briefing at 17.45 CEST today, 03 May.  A media advisory with additional information and connection details has already been sent.

WHO DG remarks:

Our co-chairs, Precious and Roland,

Our vice-chairs, Ambassadors Tovar, Amr, Kozo and Dr Viroj,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Let me take you back to 1851. That was the year the first International Sanitary Conference was held in Paris.

That conference adopted the first International Sanitary Regulations, to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague and yellow fever.

Part of the reason for this was due to many different quarantine requirements among countries, which led to significant confusion.

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

That first meeting led to the creation of the International Office of Public Hygiene – the forerunner of the World Health Organization.

It demonstrated the need for a common response to common threats.

That need became even more clear in the wake of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

And it became a reality in the wake of the Second World War, when the nations of the world came together to create the United Nations, and this World Health Organization.

They recognized that the only alternative to global conflict was global cooperation.

And they recognized that shared health threats demand a shared response.

The Constitution of the World Health Organization that you, its Member States, adopted in 1948, recognized that the control of diseases, especially communicable disease, is a common danger.

In 1951, 100 years after the first International Sanitary Conference, the 4th World Health Assembly adopted the International Sanitary Regulations, which became the International Health Regulations 18 years later, in 1969.

As you know, the IHR were updated in 2005, following the global SARS epidemic.

Why am I telling you this?

Because what you are doing in this room follows in the footsteps of what your forebears have been doing for more than 170 years.

You are here for the same reason this Organization was created in the first place – because global threats demand a global response.

The work you are doing here has a deep connection with the past, and is part of the reason Member States established WHO 76 years ago.

The work you are doing also has a deep connection with the present, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the domestic and geopolitical realities that all Member States face;

And the work you are doing has a deep connection with the future, in protecting those who come after us from the suffering that we have endured in this pandemic.

I have heard from many Member States that the revised text you have been considering this week is balanced, and that it brings you much closer to a deal.

There remain differences between you, of course, but they are now much smaller than they were.

The text reflects the ownership of all members of the drafting group.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Bureau, who have worked so hard to achieve this careful balance.

And I thank all delegations for the hard work you have done, not just this week, but over the past two years.

We all want the same thing: to make the world safer from pandemics.

The biggest danger is indifference and inaction.

Some say the agreement is too specific; some say it’s not specific enough.

Some say it’s too strong; some say it’s not strong enough.

I appreciate that you have approached this process in the same spirit of solidarity that was there in 1851 and 1948, but without creating a straitjacket.

I appreciate that it has been a difficult and sometimes painful process, and that it’s not over.

I appreciate that all of you are making compromises you did not want to make.

I appreciate that article-by-article, paragraph-by-paragraph, word-by-word, you are converging on a consensus, although you’re not there yet.

I also appreciate that consensus does not mean unanimity.

I recognize that there may be delegations who despite their good faith efforts, may not be in a position to join a consensus, but they have a choice. They can choose not to block consensus.

Adoption at the World Health Assembly is the next step, but by no means the final step.

As you know, all Member States will have to consider and, hopefully, approve the agreement at the domestic or national level.

This agreement is a piece of paper, but the measure of whether it’s worth the paper it’s written on will be whether it saves lives and prevents suffering in a future pandemic.

That is the reason you’re here, and I ask you not to lose sight of that.

I believe that in years to come, we will all be proud that we were part of this process.

So give yourselves a reason to be proud.

But more importantly, give the world a reason to be grateful for what you did in this room.

Give the people of the world, the people of your countries, the people you represent, a safer future.

So I have one simple request: please, get this done, for them.

Get this done for the people who are not here;

Get this done for the people whose voices go unheard and unheeded;

Get this done for the people who are still grieving the loss of someone they loved to COVID-19;

Get this done for the people who have never even heard of WHO, and who struggle from day to day just to survive and feed their children;

Get this done for your children and your grandchildren and for generations who have not even been born, but who will face the threat of pandemics, just as we faced it.

They do not have to suffer as we suffered. 

So please, get this done.

Thank you.

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