What is on the agenda (and off the agenda) for the WHO Assembly?

The World Health Assembly (WHA) agenda is the busiest in WHO’s 75-year history and is seen as a historic opportunity to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic that killed 15 million and prepare for the next global epidemic. [L5N2X96B0]

However, many of the most pressing issues, such as reforms of epidemic rules, will only be postponed or only discussed in the halls.

Here is an overview of what will and will not be discussed:

AGENDA….

FINANCIAL BOOST FROM WHOM

Last month, donors reached a “wonderful” agreement to gradually increase their estimated contribution to the WHO budget to reach 50% of the budget in 2028-2029 or 2030-31. In return, the WHO agreed to study their reform proposals.

At present, their mandatory contribution represents only a fraction (16%) of the total WHO budget, which means that it cannot finance certain programs, as the money is reserved for favorite donor projects. The assembly is expected to approve the deal on Tuesday.

TEDROS CHOICE

Ethiopian WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pretty much certain of being re-elected by secret ballot on Tuesday, overcoming criticism from his own government and a crisis last year over reports of sexual abuse against WHO staff in Congo.

During the meeting, Tedros is also expected to renew the World Health Agency’s main “triple billion” target, which aims to strengthen universal health coverage, improve health and well-being and better protect populations at risk.

UKRAINE

The WHO European Region this month adopted a resolution against Russia, asking Tedros to draw up a report on the health crisis in Ukraine.

Members are also preparing a resolution to be submitted to the assembly, although diplomats say it will not go so far as to suspend Russia’s voting rights, as some had initially called for.

RSI REFORMER

Reforms of the legally binding rules governing countries’ obligations in the event of a public health emergency, the International Health Regulations (IHR), will be discussed.

However, the focus will be on a US-led effort to accelerate the implementation of future reforms from 24 months to 12 months, said WHO senior lawyer Steve Solomon.

Negotiations on other proposed changes will take place later due to initial opposition from some members, diplomats said.

FROM THE AGENDA ….

THE ORIGIN OF COVID

The WHO appointed a scientific advisory group to study the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after a preliminary study of the first cases of COVID-19 in China last year left some questions unanswered. A WHO spokesman said the panel’s report was expected soon, but that it would not be released as part of the assembly.

REGULATORY REFORM

Most negotiations on the reform of the RSI will take place in the two years after the assembly, according to diplomats.

These include sore points proposed by Washington, such as the deployment of expert teams to outbreak sites and a new compliance committee to oversee the implementation of the rules, according to a WHO document.

Russia has also submitted reforms, diplomats say.

PANDEMI FUNCTIONS

The IHR is generally considered inadequate to deal with a global pandemic, and Tedros is seeking a new treaty on the pandemic. Proposals for this new pact could include rules on vaccine sharing and a proposed ban on wildlife markets.

Negotiations are set to continue in June, and a final treaty, the legal status of which remains to be determined, will not be ready until 2024.

PANDEMIFOND

The G20 has agreed to create a multibillion-dollar global fund for pandemic preparedness, which will be set up outside the WHO, probably the World Bank. The role of the WHO in this fund is still being decided and it is not on the agenda of the Assembly.

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