W.H.O. EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETING: A CURTAIN RAISER EB 148

We spent some time parsing through these documents for you.

Some key items which will be discussed at the meeting next week is highlighted here. Documents can be accessed here. A Preliminary daily timetable has been published by WHO.

Image credit: Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

  • On special procedures: the virtual nature of the meeting“…the light of the current epidemiological situation, the Members of the Board agreed through a written silence procedure that the 148th session of the Executive Board would take place virtually, using video conference technology.”
  • COVID-19 response: Report by the Director-GeneralThis is an important technical update on WHO’s response to the pandemic. Its activities are truly staggering, from coordinating countries’ responses, to gathering epidemiological intelligence; from issuing over 800 technical products on surveillance, laboratory testing and best practices, infection prevention and control, and clinical management to points of entry and international travel and essential commodities, to working on supply chains and procurement matters; from organizing massive clinical trials to fighting the infodemic.WHO has delivered on the technical front, but critics believe that it has dragged its feet on steering the politically tough discussions. The important aspects on why the equitable access to vaccines have failed so far, are conspicuous by their absence in this document, for example.Some civil society stakeholders have called this much-awaited report only a “technical” update without more details. It is understood that a comprehensive report will be made available soon.
  • Expanding access to effective treatments for cancer and rare and orphan diseases, including medicines, vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, assistive products, cell- and gene-based therapies and other health technologies; and improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health productsThis document combines a number of different complex issues, on treatments for cancer (originally a proposal from South Africa), on rare and orphan diseases (a proposal from Peru), and the issue of transparency (the implementing resolution from WHA72.8 2019)In a recent post Knowledge Ecology International has critiqued, why this document does not address issues issues first raised by South Africa and Peru in their original proposals.
  • The public health implications of implementation of the Nagoya ProtocolThe document provides information on “current pathogen-sharing practices and arrangements, the implementation of access and benefit-sharing measures, as well as the potential public health outcomes and other implications.” It discusses the cooperation across countries in sharing the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence data, and the WHO COVID-19 Reference Laboratory Network.A riveting read, takes you through the labyrinth of the science, economics and the legal mechanisms of pathogens-sharing.
  • Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual propertyAn update by the secretariat to the Board, that informs us of informal consultations of Member States on 3 December 2020 which discussed issues on transparency in costs of R&D, on expenditure on R&D by member states, on transparency of medicines prices and actions to prevent shortages, among other issues. Also includes an update on the implementation plan on the actions to be carried out by the WHO Secretariat, drawing on the road map for access to medicines, vaccines and other health products, 2019–2023.
  • Draft Proposed programme budget 2022–2023A 100+ page document which gives a glimpse on the potential direction that the financing of WHO may take in the coming months.. Emergencies and health security seem to have an overwhelming emphasis here.The 2022–2023 Draft Proposed programme budget sees a 19% jump in the size of the budget to US$ 4.47 billion (including COVID-19 lessons learned accounting for nearly US$ 275 million; a huge bump for digital health strategy at US$147 million; while science and research functions are projected to get only US$ 32.2 million. Other new overheads include WHO Academy and WHO Regional Office for Europe transformation. See page 14 for more.)
  • Scale of assessments 2022–2023WHO says the latest available United Nations scale of assessments was adopted in December 2018 for the period 2019–2021. WHO has applied the United Nations scale of assessment for 2020–2021. This shows a small increase in the contributions that countries will need to pay to WHO.
  • Engagement with non-State actorsWe found this interesting:“The COVID-19 pandemic has also prompted a substantial increase in requests for engagement with non-State actors, including private sector entities. In addition to the expected increase in requests from actors in the health sector, many actors outside the public health sector have also approached WHO regarding potential engagement. Given that an effective response to COVID-19 requires cross-sectoral action, this increase in requests has had the benefit of bringing new entities to the global public health space, including entities involved in information and communications technology, artificial intelligence, digital applications and the financial services sector. To ensure that engagements are considered on a level playing field and do not confer a competitive advantage or privilege, or constitute an endorsement, and consistent application of the Framework’s provisions and procedures has been emphasized.”
  • Process for the election of the Director-General of the World Health Organization: Note by the Legal CounselThe ball is set to roll for the nomination for the next director-general, starting April 2021.
  • WHO Expert Advisory PanelsGives you the breadth of WHO’s work.

Subscribe to the Geneva Health Files newsletter.

If you like this story, do consider supporting Geneva Health Files. I seek to make this a reader-funded initiative. You can make a contribution using a paypal account: paypal.me/genevahealthfiles Your donations are crucial to keep this effort going!

If you wish to share information or have suggestions, write to me: patnaik.reporting@gmail.com