WHO must be stronger and have more autonomy, Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness: 2nd Report OUT

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Find here the 2nd Progress Report: 


Find here an article from CBC covering the issue: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/helen-clark-who-teeth-1.5927008

Find here the members of the Panel: https://theindependentpanel.org/panel-members/


The world was not prepared, and must do better The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is painfully aware that the world was not prepared for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

When the scale of the pandemic and its impact became evident, as well as the failures in the chain of preparedness and response, communities and leaders around the world rallied in response, rethinking systems, providing mutual support and solidarity, and sparing no effort in devising the care, treatments, and prevention needed to confront severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Frontline workers exposed themselves to risk and put their lives on the line for their fellow human beings. While the work of the Panel and our inquiries are ongoing, and we are conscious that the pandemic is continuing to evolve with many countries facing their most challenging period yet in their response to COVID-19, we are unanimous in our view that more decisive and effective action can be taken immediately to save lives and reduce the overall damage from the pandemic. We are also convinced that the evidence of deficiencies in pandemic preparedness and response calls for far-reaching change for the future.

The public health measures which would curb the pandemic need to be applied comprehensively.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions, including early case detection, contact tracing and isolation, physical distancing, limits on travel and gathering, hand hygiene, and mask wearing are effective. These measures must continue to be used at scale, even as vaccination is rolled out. In too many countries, the failure to apply such measures is continuing to result in an unacceptable toll of death, illness, and transmission. Social protection measures focussed on overcoming vulnerability will both enhance the effectiveness of these public health measures, and reduce the drivers of risk.

The pandemic response has deepened inequalities.

Inequalities both within and between nations have worsened as vulnerable and marginalized people in a number of countries have been left without access to health care, not only to treat COVID-19 infection, but also because health systems have been overwhelmed, shutting many out of basic care and services. There is a gap between countries in the levelof access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and essential supplies.

The full potential of vaccines cannot be realized if narrow national interests and economic power determine who gets access, instead of basic principles of fairness and ensuring that allocation will optimize their public health impact. We cannot allow a principle to be established that it is acceptable for high-income countries to be able to vaccinate 100% of their populations while poorer countries must make do with only 20% coverage. COVID-19 did not start in the poorest countries, but they are suffering the greatest collateral damage, and they need enhanced solidarity and support from the international community.

The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose. Critical elements of the system are slow, cumbersome and indecisive.

The Panel has been advised that an increasing majority of alerts concerning outbreaks come to WHO via news or social media and is aware that platforms to collate epidemic intelligence from open and non-traditional sources have been created. Overall, the procedures and protocols attached to the operation of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), including those leading up to the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, seem to come from an earlier analog era and need to be brought into the digital age.

A system of distributed information, fed by people in local clinics and laboratories, and supported by real-time data gathering and decision-making tools, is necessary to enable reaction at the speed required—which is days, not weeks—to confront epidemic risk. This technical updating must be accompanied by a political step-change in the willingness of countries to hold themselves accountable for taking all necessary actions as soon as an alert is issued.

There has been a failure to take seriously the already known existential risks posed by pandemic threat.

Previous pandemic crises have prompted numerous evaluations, panels and commissions which have issued many recommendations for strengthening preparedness and response. Too many of those were not acted on. There has been a wholesale failure to take seriously the existential risk posed by pandemic threat to humanity and its place in the future of the planet. The collective reaction has amounted to wishful thinking instead of farsighted risk assessment and action. This crisis shows how quickly a new virus can sweep away decades of hard-won progress and investment in the future. The Panel believes that for the international community to fail again to heed calls for preparedness against pandemic threat would be unconscionable.

The World Health Organization has been underpowered to do the job expected of it.

The Panel is struck that the power of WHO to validate reports of disease outbreaks for their pandemic potential and to be able to deploy support and containment resources to local areas is gravely limited. The incentives for cooperation are too weak to ensure the effective engagement of States with the international system in a disciplined, transparent, accountable and timely manner. The impact of this pandemic ought to be to provide a once-in-a-generation A family prays at the gravesite of a relative who died of COVID-19. Lima, Peru. (Photo: Angela Ponce) Second report on progress by The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response 8 opportunity for Member States to recognize the common benefit of a suitably reinforced suite of tools available to the international system to enable robust pandemic alert and outbreak containment functions.

The Panel believes that the COVID-19 pandemic must be a catalyst for fundamental and systemic change in preparedness for future such events, from the local community right through to the highest international levels. Institutions across the policy spectrum, not just in health, must be part of effective pandemic preparedness and response. A new global framework is needed to support prevention of and protection from pandemics. Building the capacity to respond effectively to them must be seen as a collective investment in mutual human security and wellbeing.

The Panel believes that such a global reset is achievable, and its report in May will set out recommendations to that end. To be implemented, they will need the global community to come together with a shared sense of purpose and to leave no actor outside the circle of commitment to transformative change.


The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General in response to the World Health Assembly resolution 73.1.

The mission of the Independent Panel is to provide an evidence-based path for the future, grounded in lessons of the present and the past to ensure countries and global institutions, including specifically WHO, effectively address health threats.

It will do so by providing a fresh assessment of the challenges ahead, based on insights and lessons learned from the health response to COVID-19 as coordinated by WHO as well as previous health emergencies.

The Independent Panel began its impartial, independent and comprehensive review in September 2020. It will present a report to the 74th World Health Assembly scheduled for May 2021.

The sections below describe the Panel’s areas of focus, ways of working, meeting schedule and Secretariat. For more information about The Independent Panel’s work and processes see also our Questions and Answers page.

Areas of Focus

As per WHA Resolution 73.1, the Independent Panel will review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19 including:

  • the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal;
  • the functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations of previous IHR Review Committees;
  • WHO’s contribution to United Nations-wide efforts; and the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Independent Panel will make recommendations on how to improve capacity for global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, including through strengthening, as appropriate, the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

The Panel’s Program of Work builds on the areas of focus of the WHA resolution and its Terms of Reference. The Program is organized around four main interconnected themes for enquiry: 

  1. Build on the past: Learn from previous pandemics and the status of the system and actors pre-COVID-19. 
  2. Review the present: Analyse the accurate chronology of events and activities in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendations made by WHO, and the responses by national governments.
  3. Understand the Impacts: Review how health systems and communities responded and assess the direct and indirect impacts of both the pandemic and the response measures.
  4. Change for the future: An analysis and vision for a strengthened international system ideally equipped for pandemic preparedness and response.

The Independent Panel will work towards crafting recommendations which are both bold and practical including assigning owners, proposed timescales for completion, and financial and human resources in its recommendations. A variety of research methods and stakeholder engagement strategies will be employed by the Independent Panel to pursue this work. This can include mapping existing reviews, desk research, in-depth interviews, mini-symposia and expert consultations, commissioning papers on key topics, case studies and calls for contributions through the website.

Ways of Working

The Independent Panel will conduct an impartial, independent, and comprehensive review. Panelists are drawing from their expertise and experiences and are not representing their institutions or governments. 

The Independent Panel is financed from WHO’s assessed contributions. It will not accept additional contribution in cash or in kind. The panel members are making their contributions on a voluntary and non-remunerated basis.

The Independent Panel will work in a manner that is as open and transparent as possible. It will reach out to the world’s best possible expertise and experiences and will listen to different stakeholders’ perspectives, including those of Member States, civil society, academia, the private sector and the general public. Data and evidence will guide the work of the Independent Panel.  

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