[Ip-health] TWN Info: WHO -- Switzerland refuses to join consensus on FENSA emergency exception

Mirza Alas mirzalas at gmail.com
Wed Apr 27 05:36:11 PDT 2016


*Title :* TWN Info: WHO -- Switzerland refuses to join consensus on FENSA
emergency exception
*Date :* 27 April 2016

*Contents:*

TWN Info Service on IP, Health and UN  Sust. Dev.
27 April 2016
Third World Network
www.twn.my

*WHO: Switzerland refuses to join consensus on FENSA emergency exception *

Geneva 27 April (K M Gopakumar) – Switzerland refuses to join the consensus
on the emergency exception to the World Health Organization’s Framework for
Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA).

While there is a consensus on most of the text, Switzerland objected to
part of the text that obligates the Director-General of WHO to communicate
“without undue delay” the use of flexibility with regard to application of
FENSA rules while engaging with non-State actors.  Switzerland demands to
replace  “undue delay” with “in a reasonable timeframe”.

The issue of emergency exception was discussed on 25-26 April during the
formal and informal sessions of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Meeting
(OEIGM) on FENSA that is meeting for 3 days in Geneva. Consensus had almost
been reached on the second day (26 April), and with Switzerland’s objection
to the term “undue delay”, an informal meeting was held in the evening.

The new text now reads:

*69ter – alt*: “The Director-General, in the application of this framework,
when responding to acute public health events described in the
International Health Regulations (2005) or other emergencies with health
consequences, will act according to the WHO Constitution (FOOTNOTE:
Including article 2(d) of the WHO Constitution) and the principles
identified in this framework. In doing so, the Director-General may
exercise flexibility as might be needed in the application of the
procedures of this framework in those responses, when he/she deems
necessary, in accordance with WHO’s responsibilities as health cluster
lead, and the need to engage quickly and broadly with non-State actors for
coordination, scale up and service delivery (FOOTNOTE: Taking into account
resolution WHA65.20 (WHO’s response, and role as the health cluster lead,
in meeting the growing demands of health in humanitarian emergencies)). The
Director-General will inform Member States through appropriate means,
including in particular written communication, *[without undue delay] (DEL:
Switzerland) / [in a reasonable timeframe] (Switzerland)* when such a
response requires exercise of flexibility,and include summary information
with justification on the use of such flexibility in the annual report on
engagement with non-State actors”.

“Appropriate means” is defined as “Including as described in UN General
Assembly resolution A/RES/46/182 (Strengthening of the coordination of
humanitarian assistance of the United Nations), which establishes the
Secretary-General’s emergency relief coordinator, and the WHO International
Health Regulations (2005)”.

Unlike the initial Norway proposal, the new language does not provide the
flexibility to the Director-General (DG) to go against the principles
identified in Paragraph 6 of the overarching framework of FENSA.

The Norway proposal reads: “The Director-General in the application of this
framework, while responding to acute public health events described in the
International Health Regulations (2005) or other emergencies with health
consequences, will act consistent with the functions as described in the
WHO Constitution ...”

Paragraph 6 of the overarching framework lists eight principles of
engagement: “Any engagement must: (a) demonstrate a clear benefit to public
health; (a bis) conform with WHO’s Constitution, mandate and general
programme of work (b) respect the intergovernmental nature of WHO and the
decision -making authority of Member States as set out in the WHO’s
Constitution; (c) support and enhance, without compromising, the scientific
and evidence -based approach that underpins WHO’s work; (d) protect WHO
from any undue influence, in particular on the processes in setting and
applying policies, norms and standards; (e) not compromise WHO’s integrity,
independence, credibility and reputation; (f) be effectively managed,
including by, where possible avoiding conflict of interest 2and other forms
of risks to WHO; (g) be conducted on the basis of transparency, openness,
inclusiveness, accountability, integrity and mutual respect”.

One of the main concerns with regard to flexibility was the potential risk
of flexibility bringing undue influence especially “on the processes in
setting and applying policies, norms and standards”.  The proposed text
clearly avoids such a risk by insisting that the DG is to act according to
the principles mentioned in Paragraph 6.

Another departure form the Norway text is the deletion of reference to the
“no regrets principle”.  WHO’s Emergency Response Framework defines
no-regrets policy as: “At the onset of all emergencies, WHO ensures that
predictable levels of staff and funds are made available to the WCO, even
if it is later realized that less is required, with full support from the
Organization and without blame or regret. This policy affirms that it is
better to err on the side of over-resourcing the critical functions rather
than risk failure by under-resourcing”.

The reference to no-regrets policy would have expanded the scope of the
principle beyond resource allocation as well as the scope of flexibilities.

Another concern was with regard to the phrase “other emergencies with
health consequences” which is too broad and would give the DG the right to
use the flexibilities even in a protracted crisis. However, an expert
points out that the scope of the flexibility is limited to “in accordance
with WHO’s responsibilities as health cluster lead, and the need to engage
quickly and broadly with non-State actors for coordination, scale up and
service delivery”.  Therefore, there is little scope to justify the use of
flexibilities in a protracted crisis, which can go for many years such as
conflicts and droughts.

Regarding accountability to Member States with regard to the use of
flexibilities, the proposed text proposes that the DG is to the communicate
to Member Sates in particular written communication as well as to include
summary information with justification on the use of such flexibility in
the annual report on engagement with non-State actors.   However there is
no consensus regarding the timing of such communication.

There was a consensus during the informal consultations among Member States
except Switzerland. While there is an agreement that the DG should
communicate in writing “withoutundue delay” Switzerland prefers written
communication in “a reasonable time frame” instead of “without undue
delay”.

The broad language contained in the earlier proposal would have undermined
the application of FENSA rules.  The OEIGM is expected to continue
negotiations on this issue during the post-lunch session today (27 April)
to pursue Switzerland to join the consensus.



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