The Special Session of the World Health Assembly on November 29 – December 1, 2021 is focused on advancing one of the major recommendations to bolster global governance and coordination: a new World Health Organization convention, agreement, or “treaty” for pandemics. Other recommendations include establishing a Global Health Threats Council or a joint health and finance ministerial board, and strengthening existing international structures or mechanisms such as the International Health Regulations, the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), and the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, among others.
Because pandemics are complex, dynamic, whole-of-society events, no single mechanism or entity will guarantee a better governed, more accountable global system. Effective response and preparedness requires continued high-level political commitment and leadership as well as engagement and coordination of many actors and sectors across geographies, perhaps through different, but complementary mechanisms. But the complexity of the challenge must not create inertia. COVID-19 has made clear that reforms to build and sustain better global governance and coordination for PPR must be timely, deliberate, and bold — and they must be started now.
To build a stronger governance and coordination ecosystem for pandemic preparedness and response, leaders should adhere to the following priorities:
- Design and build systems and structures that are inclusive and representative
- Enshrine global solidarity and equitable access as operating principles
- Drive systemic changes that are bold, sustainable, and nimble
- Back actions and commitments with the requisite additional financing
- Ensure transparency in operations and decision-making
- Hardwire accountability and enforcement
This paper aims to connect the dots on how various structures and proposals hold promise to work together toward a stronger, better governed, and more accountable global system for pandemic preparedness and response, and to inform the global dialogue and decision-making toward meaningful, sustainable change that ensures humanity is safer from pandemic threats.