WHO welcomes historic commitment by world leaders for greater collaboration, governance and investment to prevent, prepare for and respond to future pandemics

UN building

September 20, 2023 (WHO)- The World Health Organization welcomed today’s historic commitment shown by global leaders, at the United Nations General Assembly, to strengthen the international cooperation, coordination, governance and investment needed to prevent a repeat of the devastating health and socioeconomic impact caused by COVID-19, make the world better prepared for future pandemic, and get back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The first-ever head of state summit on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response is a historic milestone in the urgent drive to make all people of the world safer, and better protected from the devastating impacts of pandemics,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “I welcome this commitment by world leaders to provide the political support and direction needed so that WHO, governments and all involved can protect people’s health and take concrete steps towards investing in local capacities, ensuring equity and supporting the global emergency health architecture that the world needs.”

The political declaration, approved by Mr Dennis Francis, President of the 78th United Nations General Assembly, and the result of negotiations under the able leadership of Ambassadors Gilad Erdan of Israel and Omar Hilale of Morocco, underscored the pivotal role played by WHO as the “directing and coordinating authority on international health,” and the need to “commit further to sustainable financing that provides adequate and predictable funding to the World Health Organization, which enables it to have the resources needed to fulfil its core functions.”

“The lived experience of people who suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic must be at the forefront of our minds going forward in order to realize the clear direction provided by world leaders,” said Dr Tedros. “We must learn how to protect our communities better and to engage, inform and empower them to be part of the solution. We need to build stronger clinical care systems that can save lives. Doing so requires concrete actions to ensure equitable access to medical countermeasures, sustainable and adequate financing, empowered and engaged communities and robust, trained and equipped health workers.”

“The devastating impacts of COVID-19 demonstrated why the world needs a more collaborative, cohesive and equitable approach to preventing, preparing for and responding to pandemics,” said Dr Tedros. 

Dr Tedros said governments and multilateral partners have already commenced building the foundations for a safer world, with the establishment of the Pandemic Fund, the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, the WHO BioHub to voluntarily share novel biological materials, and the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

However, Dr Tedros added that the political declaration approved on Wednesday called for further strengthening of the global health emergency architecture to better protect the world from a repeat of COVID-19.

Among numerous measures required, the political declaration recognized the need for Member States to:

  • Conclude negotiations on a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, otherwise known as the Pandemic Accord, and continue their work to make targeted amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) by May 2024;
  • In line with the Pandemic Accord process, ensure the sustainable, affordable, fair, equitable, effective, efficient and timely access to medical countermeasures, including vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other health products;
  • Take measures to counter and address the negative impacts of health-related misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and stigmatization, especially on social media platforms, on people’s physical and mental health, including countering vaccine hesitancy in the context of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response and to foster trust in public health systems and authorities, including by increasing public health education, literacy and awareness, while recognizing that the effective engagement of stakeholders requires access to timely, accurate and evidence-based information and awareness raising including through the use of digital health tools;
  • To protect our communities through investing in primary health care and other health system measures, as part of a commitment to universal health coverage, so to ensure robust national health systems are in place to respond to future pandemics;
  • Invest in ensuring WHO is strengthened to the level needed to play its role in responding to pandemic threats. Sustainable financing of WHO, and national health systems, is essential for making the world safer;
  • Strengthen health workforce and rapid response capacities, surveillance and supply systems, and local manufacturing abilities, to enable and empower all countries to have the ability to meet their own needs to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics.
  • Scale up health system capacities to address pandemic threats in low- and lower-middle income countries, especially across Africa;
  • Counter and address the negative impacts of health-related misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and stigmatization, especially on social media platforms, on people’s physical and mental health, in order to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and foster trust in public health systems and authorities;
  • Leverage the potential of the multilateral system and scale up the multisectoral approach needed to improve pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, due to the multifaceted causes and consequences of pandemics, which support attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Following today’s approval of the political declaration by the UN General Assembly president, leaders of United Nations Member States delivered statements on the critical importance of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response and the need for a robust, coordinated and comprehensive global health emergency architecture.