Questions and Answers

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

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

Its mandate is to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19. The Independent Panel comprises 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 is 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 will establish facts about global and country responses to COVID-19, distill lessons learned, and will make recommendations for how the world can be better prepared to respond both to the current pandemic, and to future global health threats.

Q. How is the Independent Panel doing its work?

The Independent Panel is following a Program of Work. The Program of Work includes 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 will answer questions emerging from these themes. It will do so by gathering evidence and establishing facts through a variety of rigorous methodologies, including desk reviews, expert consultations, and surveys. Through this process, the Panel will also listen to and learn from a wide range of stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, academia, the general public including those affected by COVID-19, and the private sector.

Q. Is this Panel reviewing WHO, countries and other institutions?  

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

  • 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.

What began as a health crisis has turned into a global crisis touching every aspect of life. 

The pandemic has caused untold damage to human health and health systems, but also to economies, to social services and cohesion, education, the safety of women and girls, the wellbeing of migrant workers, to planetary health and many other aspects of life.  The Panel believes it’s important to find out why this happened.  

The pandemic has also shown that when we work together, we can protect human health and economies, preserve social harmony and make technical advances in record time. What are the ideas, elements and actions that make this happen?  

The Independent Panel therefore has to look at many angles and many actors – focussing definitely on the role of WHO, but also the role of national actors, of communities and of many sectors.

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

The Independent Panel will report in the following ways:

First, through scheduled briefings and reports to WHO Governing Bodies. As of now these include: 

  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. A Panel report will be presented to the 74th World Health Assembly (24 May to 1 June 2021)

Second, the Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel also brief Member States at the regularly scheduled monthly briefings in Geneva. 

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

Each of these bodies has a distinct mandate.  The Independent Panel will definitely be informed by 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.

The Chairs and Secretariats of these bodies are already in touch and fully agree to coordinate work and to not duplicate efforts.

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

The Independent Panel has a total of 13 members.

The Panel’s Co-Chairs are 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 is the Panel’s relationship to the World Health Organization?  

The Independent Panel was initiated by the WHO Director-General at the request of the World Health Assembly. It reports to the WHO Governing Bodies, and not to the WHO.  

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

The Independent Panel takes “impartial and independent” seriously. Panelists are drawing from their expertise and experiences and are not representing their institutions or governments.  The Panel has its own independent Secretariat. It is financed from WHO assessed contributions and will not accept additional contribution in cash or in kind. 

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

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

The Independent Panel is committed to learning from stakeholders and invites submissions from around the world on all aspects in relation to the Panel’s Program of Work. Our aim is 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 are welcome to submit their contributions on this page. Published submissions can be viewed here.

Q. How can I learn more about the Independent Panel’s work and progress? 

The Independent Panel seeks to ensure its processes are as transparent as possible. 

Anyone can 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 invites any interested persons to sign up for our regular email briefings and news releases on the subscription form on our website.  

The Panel aims to publish documentation from meetings or other events rapidly – within days and even sooner. 

The Independent Panel will also engage with media at regular intervals throughout the duration of the Panel, linked to progress reports to the WHO Governing Bodies, or if there are recommendations that have an urgent bearing on the present dynamics of COVID-19. 

Of course, the Independent Panel will make all recommendations publicly known in its report to the World Health Assembly in May of 2021.

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