A special World Health Assembly (WHA) session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) will begin on November 29. The session aims to develop a WHO convention, agreement or another international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response. The special session—the second in the history of WHO—will aim at establishing an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft such an instrument. It will take into account the report of the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies. A WHO draft resolution is expected to be formally endorsed at the WHA, which will go on till December 1. It is co-sponsored by 114 countries, including India, members of the European Union, Africa Group, the U.S., the U.K. and Japan.

The WHA—which meets annually in Geneva, Switzerland—is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States, and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The next meeting of WHA, the 75th meeting, is scheduled during 22-28 May 2022.

The draft resolution to be considered by WHA says that that the first meeting of the INB shall be held no later than 1 March 2022, to elect two co-chairs, reflecting a balance of developed and developing countries, and four vice-chairs, one from each of the six WHO regions, and to define and agree on its working methods and timelines, consistent with this decision and based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency, Member State leadership and consensus.

The draft says that INB shall determine an inclusive Member State-led process to first identify the substantive elements of the instrument, and to then begin the development of a working draft to be presented for the consideration of the INB at its second meeting, to be held no later than 1 August 2022. INB will then identify the provision of the WHO Constitution under which the instrument should be adopted. The INB will submit its outcome for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly (to be held in 2024), with a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly.

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