Questions and Answers

Q. What was the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response? 

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (“The Independent Panel”) was a global Panel that was established by the World Health Organization Director-General at the request of the World Health Assembly.

Its mandate was to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19. The Independent Panel comprised thirteen members, including Co-Chairs the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia.

The mission of the Independent Panel was to provide an evidence-based path for the future, grounded in lessons of the present and the past to ensure countries and global institutions, including specifically WHO, effectively address health threats.

The Independent Panel established facts about global and country responses to COVID-19, distilled lessons learned, made recommendations for how the world can be better prepared to respond both to the current pandemic, and to future global health threats.

Q. How did the Independent Panel do its work?

The Independent Panel followed a Program of Work. The Program of Work included four themes of enquiry:

  1. Build on the past: Learn from previous pandemics and the status of the system and actors pre-COVID19. 
  2. Review the present: Analyse the accurate chronology of events and activities in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendations made by WHO, and the responses by national governments. 
  3. Understand the impacts: Review how health systems and communities responded and assess the direct and indirect impacts of both the pandemic and the response measures including the economic and social impacts. 
  4. Change for the future: An analysis and vision for a strengthened international system ideally equipped for pandemic preparedness and response. ​

The Panel answered questions emerging from these themes. It did so by gathering evidence and establishing facts through a variety of rigorous methodologies, including desk reviews, expert consultations, and in-depth interviews. Throughout this process, the Panel also listened to and learned from a wide range of stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, academia, the general public, and the private sector.

Q. Did the Panel review WHO, countries and other institutions?  

The Independent Panel’s mandate derived from the WHA resolution 73.1 [ PDF, 56 KB ]. According to this resolution, the areas to explore included: 

  • The overall relevance and effectiveness of the international health response to the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • The functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations by previous IHR Review Committees
  • The effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal and the actions of WHO and the timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • WHO’s contribution to United Nations-wide efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a marked impact on health and health systems, but also on economies, social services and cohesion, education, the safety of women and girls, the wellbeing of migrant workers, and on planetary health. The Independent Panel therefore examined many angles and many actors – focussed definitely on the role of WHO, but also the role of national actors, of communities and of many sectors.

Q. How and when did the Independent Panel report on its work? 

The Independent Panel reported througn scheduled briefings and reports to the WHO Governing Bodies. These included:

  1. A Co-Chair brief to the WHO Executive Board Special Session on 5-6 October, 2020.
  2. A first progress report presented to the 73rd World Health Assembly on 10 November, 2020.
  3. A second progress report presented to the WHO Executive Board on 19 January, 2020.
  4. The Panel’s main report, presented globally on May 12, 2021. The Co-Chairs also presented this report on 25 May, 2021, to the 74th World Health Assembly.

The Co-Chairs and Secretariat of the Independent Panel also briefed Member States at regularly scheduled briefings in Geneva. 

Q. How did the Independent Panel work with other committees tasked with reviews of the WHO Emergencies Programme and the International Health Regulations? 

Each of these bodies had a distinct mandate.  The Independent Panel was kept abreast of the findings and outputs of the International Health Regulations Review Committee, and by the work and outputs of the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme through regular updates at which the Panel Co-Chairs also presented the Panel’s updates.

Q. Who were the Independent Panel Members and how were they selected? 

The Independent Panel had a total of 13 members.

The Panel’s Co-Chairs were the Rt Hon. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Nobel Laureate. They were selected by the WHO Director-General following informal consultations with Member States and global leaders. 

The Co-Chairs were asked and mandated by the WHO Director-General to select an appropriate number of panelists. The Co-Chairs selected 11 Panel members, based on a long-list of more than 120 names suggested by Member States as well as additional names put forward.  

The Co-Chairs made their final selections based on skills (including expertise in outbreak response, infectious disease, managing national health systems, leadership in community and youth engagement, and socio-economic analytical capabilities), knowledge of the international system including specifically WHO and experience from similar international processes. 

Please find the list of Panel members here.

Q. What was the Panel’s relationship to the World Health Organization?  

The Independent Panel was established by the WHO Director-General at the request of the World Health Assembly.

As per the World Health Assembly Resolution 73.1, the Independent Panel conducted an impartial, independent and comprehensive review.  

Panelists drew from their expertise and experiences and did not represent their institutions or governments.  The Panel had its own independent Secretariat. It was financed from WHO assessed contributions and did not accept additional contribution in cash or in kind. 

The Independent Panel’s offices were on the Geneva Health Campus. The Panel maintained its own website and distinct brand.  

Q. How could Member States and others contribute to the Panel’s work? 

The Independent Panel was committed to learning from stakeholders and invited submissions from around the world on all aspects related to its Program of Work. The aim was to identify evidence-based clear and implementable solutions, in order for the world to achieve the highest possible level of pandemic preparedness and response.

WHO Member States, civil society organisations, researchers, the private sector, and the general public were welcome to submit their contributions, and published submissions can be viewed here.

Q. How could the public learn more about the Independent Panel’s work and progress? 

The Independent Panel sought to ensure its processes were as transparent as possible. 

Anyone was welcome to receive information about the Panel, panelists, processes, key documents, key dates and events on its website and through social media  (www.TheIndependentPanel.org, @TheIndPanel).  

The Panel invited any interested persons to sign up for regular email briefings and news releases on a subscription form on the website.  

The Panel published documentation from meetings or other events rapidly, usually within days.

The Independent Panel also engaged with media at regular intervals throughout the duration of the Panel, linked to progress reports to the WHO Governing Bodies.

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