World Health Assembly: Reset the INB process to negotiate a successful pandemic agreement in 2024

Co-Chairs and members of former The Independent Panel call also for amended International Health Regulations to be adopted this week; and for immediate investment today to make the world safer

26 May 2024

The former Co-Chairs and active members and advisors to The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response call for more time for WHO Member States to negotiate the pandemic agreement, but with a reset process which could lead to a stronger text within several months.

They recognise the significant efforts by negotiators, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body Bureau, and WHO staff to turn principles into agreed texts which can help to keep the world safer and contain pandemic threats.

To tackle the difficult issues left to resolve, a new, streamlined bureau is needed, with new processes designed to negotiate the remaining sections of the agreement with expert inputs. 

“The pandemic agreement, together with revised International Health Regulations, should set the international rules for collaboration to prevent and respond to pandemic threats – ideally to stop a threat from ever becoming a pandemic,” said the Right Honourable Helen Clark, former Co-Chair of The Independent Panel.

“The international rules need to be clear, and to be effective, they must guarantee equity. We call on the World Health Assembly to reset the process with a new bureau, and for Member States to negotiate and adopt an agreement well before the end of this year.”

A new bureau with two co-chairs should be created, and issues should be negotiated systematically by working groups, according to a set schedule. The working groups should have access to independent expert advice throughout the process. A similar system appears to have worked well for amending the International Health Regulations (IHRs). 

Adopt the amended International Health Regulations this week   

The amended IHRs should be adopted this week, and result in faster reporting of public health threats of potential international concern, WHO investigation and support, and more rapid alerts to the world. 

“The Independent Panel found that for COVID-19, the IHRs were a constraint. It recommended amended rules to identify, verify, report, and alert health threats more rapidly,”  said Helen Clark. “Member States must adopt amendments this week which result in a more streamlined system, and, with WHO, should implement them immediately.”

More action now required to finance and develop medical countermeasures ecosystem

Finally, the world should not wait for a pandemic agreement to come into force before investing in systems that will stop outbreaks from becoming pandemics.

First, the underinvestment in pandemic preparedness and response continues to put the world at risk of a new major deadly outbreak or pandemic. To generate new funding, countries should adopt a global public investment model which would see all countries pay into a fund according to their means, and countries benefiting according to their needs. In addition, the International Financial Institutions must make decisions to vastly increase support for preparedness and emergency funding.

An additional estimated $10.5 billion per year is required for preparedness for low- and middle-income countries. So far, only $312.7 million has been committed directly to country projects by The Pandemic Fund, which is itself vastly underfunded. 

Second, funds must be invested now in research and development hubs in regions where R&D for outbreak and pandemic threats is underfunded, and these must be connected to clinical trials, manufacturing and distribution.

“New pandemic threats will not wait for papers to be signed in Geneva,” said Helen Clark. “We call for more investment now in real-world systems which will detect threats, and which give every region the ability to develop and produce countermeasures, such as vaccines, to stop them.”

The former Co-Chairs of The Independent Panel will provide a full assessment of progress towards a reformed international system for pandemic preparedness and response and propose more concrete ways to make faster progress in a new report to be issued next month.


More about The Independent Panel: The Co-Chairs, the RH Helen Clark and HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, led The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response together with 11 distinguished panelists. They spent eight months rigorously reviewing various dimensions of the pandemic. In May 2021 the Co-Chairs submitted their evidence-based landmark report entitled COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic to the World Health Assembly. They made recommendations which, taken as a package, could transform the international system in a way that could make it the last pandemic of such devastation.

The Independent Panel Co-Chairs, several members and advisors continue to advocate for implementation of the full package of recommendations due to concerns about the failure to implement recommendations of past high-level reviews of major outbreaks. Their interest is to see a fit-for-purpose, transformed, and effective international system for pandemic preparedness and response. They continue to do this work in their own time because of the serious implications of lack of transformative change being made. 

Contact: Christine McNab in Toronto, Canada:  +1 416 986-2068; email: 

Scroll to Top