Outcomes of the 77th World Health Assembly: Investment Round, International Health Regulations and Pandemic Agreement

05. June 2024 I  WHO  I by : German Federal Ministry of Health
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On June 1st, this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) closed after long debates, notably on an international pandemic agreement. But other outcomes are not to be missed.

The first-ever investment round in WHO history

Following recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Working Group on Sustainable Financing, chaired by Germany, the WHO launched its first-ever investment round on Sunday, May 26th. The goal is to make WHO an organization with predictable, sustainable, and flexible funding. In an era marked by climate change, pandemic threats, an aging global population, and geopolitical hardship, this milestone aims to futureproof the WHO. The world needs a robust WHO, and WHO needs strong financing.

Germany is one of the largest donors of the WHO and has always been a strong supporter of the normative, standard-setting, and coordinating role of the organization. The Investment Round underscores the importance of sustainable financing for WHO to meet global health priorities and flexibly respond to health threats. In this pivotal phase, Germany will co-host the investment round alongside other countries such as France and Norway, who already stated their commitment, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to WHO and global health. Germany believes that this investment round is crucial for strengthening WHO's mandate and achieving sustainable financing. Germany reiterated that it will lead and support the sustainable financing of WHO together with other Member States and proposed the World Health Summit in Berlin in October this year as an additional platform for the investment round to bring together supporters and additional co-hosts.

The launch of the investment round marks the beginning of a year-long series of engagements and events, co-hosted by various countries. During these events, member states and other partners will be invited to contribute funds to WHO’s strategy for 2025 to 2028, as outlined in the 14th General Programme of Work (GPW), which was also adopted at this year's World Health Assembly. These contributions from countries and partners will reflect high-level political commitment not only to WHO but to global health overall. A significant milestone in resource mobilization will be the major pledging event in November, hosted by Brazil in conjunction with the G20 Leaders' Summit.

Member states agree on amendments to the International Health Regulations

After two years of negotiations, the WHA approved a package of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR). This historic step encompasses changes aiming to enhance pandemic preparedness and global coordination in responses to public health emergencies. More precisely, the additions to the IHR include:

  • committing to solidarity and equity in strengthening collaboration between member states and with WHO;
  • establishing an Implementation Committee to monitor and strengthen the effective implementation of the regulations;
  • establishing a Coordinating Financial Mechanism to more effectively utilize existing financing instruments for the implementation of the IHR;
  • strengthening the response through, for example, recommendations on the allocation of health products, protecting international supply chains, and enabling digital health certificates during public health emergencies.

These changes are significant for strengthening the IHR, and lessons learned from the COVID-19-pandemic have been successfully addressed. The finalization of the negotiations clearly signals the strength of international collaboration and solidarity in global health. It demonstrates that multilateralism can still deliver concrete results to make the world a better and safer place.

Way forward on the Pandemic Agreement

Since governments initiated this endeavor in December 2021, the goal has been to develop the world’s first pandemic agreement, in the hope of preventing the recurrence of the devastating health, economic, and social impacts seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in the future. However, after more than two years of intensive negotiations, the plan to submit the pandemic agreement for approval at the 77th WHA encountered significant roadblocks due to substantial divergences among member states. Instead of concluding the agreement, the WHA was used to agree on a way forward for the negotiations.

Despite these challenges, member states acknowledged the significant efforts of the member state-led Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and the Bureau guiding the process. The extensive work undertaken since the start of the negotiations underscores the global commitment to developing a robust pandemic agreement.

Long negotiating weeks went into intermission on June 1st, when WHO’s member states decided to extend the mandate of the INB, to finalize the pandemic agreement within a year, by the 78th World Health Assembly in 2025, or, if possible, earlier at a special session of the Assembly in 2024. This decision reinforces their dedication to achieving a historic agreement that will prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemics. Germany is convinced that the international pandemic agreement is a unique opportunity to strengthen regional, national, and global capacities so that infectious diseases occur less frequently and, in particular, do not develop into pandemics. This requires an internationally binding agreement with clear regulations. The German government will work towards the conclusion of the negotiations.

Member states further commit to combat AMR

In view of the growing threats posed by antimicrobial resistance and in preparation for the UN High Level Meeting (UN HLM) on AMR in September this year, the adoption of the WHA resolution “Antimicrobial Resistance: Accelerating National and Global Responses” marks an important step forward. The resolution not only sets the stage for a decisive political declaration in the upcoming UN HLM but also represents the recognition of the severity of AMR. By endorsing this resolution, member states have agreed to a range of strategic actions, including the development and implementation of national action plans. These measures are crucial in the world’s collective efforts to reduce the rise of antimicrobial resistance and safeguard public health worldwide.

The World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, convenes delegations from all 194 WHO Member States to address a specific health agenda prepared by the WHO Executive Board. Annually held in Geneva, Switzerland, the Assembly's primary functions include determining the organization's policies, appointing the Director-General, and reviewing and approving the proposed programme and budget.

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