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Unified Regional Voice Needed For Development Of Pandemic Prevention Instrument


by Timothy Austin

Regional Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), Caribbean public health stakeholders and other representatives of Member States are taking steps to ensure their voices are heard in the process of developing a convention, agreement or other instrument for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

This was the purpose of the Second Special Meeting of the Chief Medical Officers facilitated by the CARICOM Secretariat virtually on 3 August 2023.

The Meeting of the World Health Assembly, 21 December 2021, acknowledged the disparity that existed between developed and developing states with access to the distribution of essential health commodities required to elicit an adequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The body agreed that a legally binding convention, agreement or other instrument should be drafted to address prevention, preparedness and response to future pandemics, hereafter referred to as the ‘accord’.

Zero Draft

In February 2023, the Zero Draft of the convention, agreement, or other instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response was drafted by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and updated in June 2023.

Since this time decisions on the content and terms of this convention are being negotiated. However, while individual Caribbean Member States have been involved in these negotiations, CARICOM, as a community of Member States, is still developing a unified position on the proposed articles of the accord and representation in these negotiations.

The CARICOM Secretariat convened the Second Special Meeting of the Chief Medical Officers to address this gap.

In addition to the pandemic preparedness accord, World Health Organisation (WHO) Member States are also negotiating amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) in Geneva.

The IHR are legally binding for Member States.  Concurrently, Governments are also negotiating a Political Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response in New York for adoption in September 2023.

Participants of the meeting also considered the need for the Region’s input in these ongoing negotiations.

Unified Voice

Specifically, the meeting facilitated collaborative discussions among CMOs and other Caribbean public health stakeholders on a precise pathway to ensuring the Region is fully represented and all concerns and recommendations are incorporated in the negotiations surrounding the accord.

In addition, the meeting provided the opportunity for Member States to understand the process of negotiations and to discuss what coordinating mechanisms can be utilized to formulate a unified position on the content of the accord.

Over 46 regional public health stakeholders and other representatives of Caribbean Member States, CARICOM Secretariat officials and technical officers participated in the meeting which was chaired by Dr Julio Sabido, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Belize.

In his remarks, Dr Sabido referred to the disparity and specifically stated that the Region did not have adequate access to essential health commodities necessary for the COVID-19 response.  “Indeed, many Member States of the Caribbean Community experienced challenges in procuring, among other things, vaccines and medical equipment”, stated Dr Sabido.

He further expressed gratitude to the CARICOM Secretariat for convening the meeting and advocated for full participation by all stakeholders since the accord negotiations must reflect the voices of the Region.

Armed with knowledge

Representatives from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO), the INB, the Third World Network and the Ministry of Health and Wellness – Jamaica presented on the instrument for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The presentations aimed to fully equip CMOS and other stakeholders with the relevant knowledge on the process concerning the accord negotiations.

Next steps

Following a rich discussion by all stakeholders, CMOs reiterated the need for full participation by the Region in the negotiations currently underway and made specific recommendations to ensure the Region’s voice is included in the decision-making.

Ms Alison Drayton, Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat acknowledged the recommendations and informed that the Secretariat would respond with substantive proposals on a coordinating mechanism for unified representation in the negotiations.

The ASG emphasized that the CARICOM Secretariat is committed to its coordinating role in ensuring that the Region is significantly represented in the negotiations for the pandemic prevention instrument with the overarching aim of safeguarding public health across the Region.


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  1. They messed around with the SARS virus in the lab in 2001. 2003 there was a SARS outbreak. They messed around with MERS in the lab from 2010. In 2014 there was a MERS outbreak. They messed around with SARS COV-2 in the lab and in 2019 there was an outbreak. See the pattern?



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