EU prepares draft resolution on Covid-19 ahead of World Health Assembly 2020

On 15 April the European Union (EU) submitted a ‘zero draft’ resolution for the World Health Assembly entitled WHA73: ‘Covid-19 Response’. It calls on Member States to work together at international level to develop, test and produce safe, effective, quality diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for the COVID-19 response.

On 15 April the European Union (EU) submitted a ‘zero draft’ resolution for the World Health Assembly entitled WHA73: “Covid-19 Response”. This text was accompanied by a note verbale starting with the following observation:

“We understand that the 73rd World Health Assembly may meet in a virtual session in May with a single substantive point on the agenda – COVID-19. We are living in extraordinary times and we see this Assembly as an extraordinary opportunity for Health Ministers of all WHO Member States to demonstrate their solidarity and their common resolve to overcome the challenges we all face in responding to this pandemic.”

The proposed agenda would “provide crucial international focus on Covid-19, while recognising that consideration of the nearly 60 items on the full WHA73 agenda would not be appropriate at this time,” states the proposal by the WHO senior leadership for the virtual meeting.

It is the first time that the World Health Assembly will meet in a one-day virtual session on May 18. EU member states are hopeful that a draft WHA resolution could be approved in the rapid-fire session – and they are holding daily worldwide consultations with WHO member states online, with the hopes of sealing a deal on the potentially game-changing resolution in time for the WHA meeting.

The EU draft WHA resolution calls on Member States to “work collaboratively at international level to develop, test and produce safe, effective, quality diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for the COVID-19 response, and to facilitate the equitable and affordable access of people to them, including through voluntarily pooling their intellectual property for all COVID-19-related medical interventions…under the leadership of the WHO.”

Other key sections of the resolution are directed at the WHO Director-General to draft a plan to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health products for consideration of the WHO Governing Bodies, in consultation with Member States, the United Nations Secretary-General, as well as from relevant international organizations.

The patent pool, which aims to share any information, data or intellectual property rights (IPRs) for innovations, would enable competitive and rapid production of needed technologies, and thus supposedly increase their affordability.

The EU seems to be moving to the forefront on global cooperation in the coronavirus fight, stepping in to fill a leadership void left by the US. The Gates Foundation – the largest private underwriter of public health initiatives – is working closely with the Commission on a pledging conference on Monday intended to generate €7.5 billion in financing for tests, medicines and vaccines against the virus. Melinda Gates said the foundation views Europe as key in bringing international players to the table and preventing the wealthiest countries from putting their own needs first. The foundation, working with the Commission, aims to play a coordinating role, helping to funnel money through other partner organisations that would oversee the efforts to develop a vaccine and therapeutics, including the Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in Geneva; and the Welcome Trust in London.

The full text of the EU draft resolution can be found here:

EU Proposal for a WHA73 Resolution on the COVID-19 Response (PDF)

The text of the note verbale can be found here:

2020_0415_NV WHA73 Resolution (PDF)

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