[Ip-health] WHO Governance Questioned As It Adds World Health Assembly Agenda Item On Biodiversity

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Feb 1 06:46:18 PST 2019


WHO Governance Questioned As It Adds World Health Assembly Agenda Item On


The World Health Organization today admitted to an unusual procedure to set
up a debate on the health implications of a UN treaty on sharing of
benefits from genetic resources. The new agenda item proposed by the WHO
director general was accepted by the WHO Board today, but with member
states questioning the governance of the move.

WHO Legal Counsel Steven Solomon takes questions, with Anne Huvos, head of
the PIP Framework Secretariat, behind

The WHO Executive Board is responsible for approving the agenda of the
World Health Assembly held annually in May. The dates of the next WHA were
set today from 20-28 May.

The new agenda item proposed by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom
Gheyebresus (Dr Tedros) is on the public health implications of the
implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and
the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization
to the Convention on of Biological Diversity.

The agenda item was adopted by the 144th WHO Executive Board which
concluded early today. The Board met from 24 January to 1 February.

The agenda item was already reflected in the draft World Health Assembly
(WHA) agenda [pdf], but as a footnote to the PIP Framework item (12.1 –
Other Technical Matters).

The Brazilian delegate, supported by China and Indonesia, questioned the
secretariat on the date of the submission of this proposal, and why a
proposal by the WHO director general would appear as a footnote in the
draft World Health Assembly (WHA) agenda, and refer to a recommendation
from an Advisory Group to WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP)

The issue of the public health implications of the Nagoya Protocol
implementation is discussed in the context of the PIP Framework, regarding
the sharing of pathogens, with no consensus on the question. Further
consultations are expected to be organised until the WHA in May and Brazil
suggested to wait for the result of those consultations.

WHO Legal Counsel Steven Solomon took the position that the agenda item
proposed by the director general solely concerns the Nagoya Protocol, as
the PIP framework already has its own agenda item.

The PIP Advisory Group, after its 18-19 October meeting [pdf] and
open-ended consultations held on 16-17 October, suggested that Dr Tedros
“invite the 144th Executive Board to consider including an item on ‘the
public health implications of implementation of the Nagoya Protocol’ on the
provisional agenda of the Seventy-Second World Health Assembly.”

According to Solomon, the secretariat was faced with the question on how to
bring that recommendation, which was supported by the director general, to
the consideration of the Board. It was in the end added as a footnote.

“That is unusual,” Solomon acknowledged. “We were looking for a way to
transparently communicate this rather complex sequence.”

“It is not the ordinary way, but it is consistent with the rules of
procedure,” he said.

The United States, Germany, Finland and Norway (which is not a Board
member), supported the agenda item proposed by Dr Tedros, while Indonesia
and China supported Brazil.

PIP Advisory Group – Overstepping Role?

“From a good governance perspective, this is not a good practice,” the
Brazilian delegate said after Solomon’s explanation. The footnote to the
agenda item on PIP “gives the legitimate impression that the discussion is
related to PIP,” he said.

“From a purely [governance perspective] this is not good. At all,” Brazil

The PIP Advisory Group “might be overstepping its mandate” with this
recommendation, Brazil added.

The delegate added the hope that “when we get the report by the DG
[director general] on this issue for the preparation of this discussion, we
have a very comprehensive analysis, not only negative impacts of the Nagoya

Solomon responded, “We agree with the point that Brazil strongly made that
this is not a good way to go forward and we take very careful note of
that.” He also noted that a lot of member states in the room seemed to nod
their approval of Brazil’s point during the discussion.

On the issue of governance, Brazil was supported by Germany and Finland.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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