The Fourth Meeting at the World Health Organization of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body working on a pandemic accord concluded last week. The United States used this meeting to underscore its commitment to the process, with a goal of developing an accord that builds on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthens U.S. national security by establishing clear, agreed roles and responsibilities for the WHO and its member states and partners.
Lead U.S. negotiator Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto led the U.S. delegation to this meeting and engaged with a broad range of counterparts to promote an accord that would build capacity, reduce the threat posed by zoonotic disease, enable rapid and more equitable responses, and establish sustainable financing, governance, and accountability to break the cycle of pandemic panic and neglect.
Much work remains to be done on this accord to ensure that the text meets these complex needs and is ultimately implementable for the United States. The next meeting of the Negotiating Body will take place next month, with a target date for conclusion of May 2024.
While the United States is deeply committed to a process that should result in shared commitments and shared responsibilities among nations, we are also aware of concerns by some that these negotiations could result in diminished U.S. sovereignty. The United States will not support any measure at the World Health Organization, including in these negotiations, that in any way undermines our sovereignty or security.
Any accord resulting from these negotiations would be designed to increase the transparency and effectiveness of cooperation among nations during global pandemics and would in no way empower the World Health Organization or any other international body to impose, direct, or oversee national actions. It will not compromise the ability of American citizens to make their own health care decisions.
COVID-19 served as a stark reminder that infectious diseases do not stop at our borders. In order to protect Americans from current and future health threats, we must ensure that the lessons of COVID-19 and other infectious disease threats are reflected in a clear strategy rooted in global engagement.