18 March 2024

The ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) will be held from 18 through 28 March 2024

A statement from UHC2030 Co-Chairs ahead of the ninth meeting of the INB

Ahead of the ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to be held 18-28 March 2024, we call on Member States to ensure the integration and operationalization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) principles into the WHO Pandemic Agreement as an essential foundation for effective pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery (PPR). 

We welcome the inclusion of UHC core elements related to primary health care, reaching vulnerable populations, and access to health services without financial hardship, in the revised draft of the negotiating text . We appreciate efforts taken to reflect Member State commitments made at the United Nations General Assembly’s High-level meeting on UHC in September 2023 (see paragraph 27 PPR Political Declaration, A/RES/78/3 and paragraph 41, UHC Political Declaration, A/RES/78/4).

We continue to urge Member States to reflect on the role of UHC as a foundational element for successful responses to health crises, throughout upcoming textual negotiations. We call for the link between UHC and health systems strengthening, based on a primary health care approach and with focus on vulnerable and marginalized populations, to be accurately reflected in the agreement.

UHC and health security are two intertwined goals which are achieved through the same health system. UHC helps tackle barriers to accessing services, mitigates against exacerbating inequities and ensures that health systems are strong, resilient and better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks with pandemic potential.

To create an agreement which fulfils its potential of securing a safer and healthier future for everyone, everywhere, we need strong, sustained and comprehensive references which acknowledge barriers to access (including of financial nature) for marginalized and vulnerable populations. The agreement must also promote health systems strengthening based on a primary health care approach as the most efficient and sustainable way to reach UHC and health security goals.

Core elements that should be reflected and maintained throughout the text include:

  • Bringing access to essential and routine health services to at least pre-pandemic levels, and exceeding those levels where possible.
  • Protecting and supporting health and care workers, the majority of whom are women.
  • Reaching and protecting the most vulnerable groups in society, including women and girls, in line with SDG commitments to leave no one behind, and noting that pandemics widen inequalities.
  • Mitigating barriers to accessing health services, commodities and information, particularly by guaranteeing affordability and non-discrimination, and ensuring that preventive services are free at the point of delivery.
  • Integrating pandemic prevention, preparedness and response planning into PHC systems (such as by leveraging disaggregated data from routine PHC records to enhance surveillance and monitoring).
  • Institutionalizing participatory governance mechanisms that enable meaningful multistakeholder, whole-of-society engagement, including civil society and communities. This is critical to responding to the needs of communities and building trust, which in turn leads to greater uptake of essential public health services.
  • Acknowledging the need for foundational investments in public health and essential health services to strengthen emergency preparedness.

Effective pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery is not possible without UHC. Member states must build on the commitments made at the high-level meetings and operationalize UHC in the agreement for effective pandemic prevention, preparedness response and recovery

Find more information about why it is important to integrate UHC in the WHO Pandemic Agreement, read our article Universal health coverage and the pandemic treaty.

-By Gabriela Cuevas and Justin Koonin, Co-chairs of the UHC2030 Steering Committee 

 

Background: 

In December 2021, the World Health Assembly (WHA) established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization, to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following two rounds of public hearings (in April and September 2022) and four informal focused consultations (in September and October 2022), a zero draft of the accord was developed (Zero Draft (ZD) of the WHO CA+) for discussion during INB4, INB5, and INB6. During the INB's seventh (6–10 November 2023 and 4–6 December 2023) and eighth (19 February–1 March 2024) sessions, Member States considered proposals for the negotiating text of the WHO pandemic agreement.
 
The INB delivered a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023 and will submit its outcome for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.

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