Africa objects to US proposal on controversial IHR amendments
Meanwhile India discovers irregularities in WHO financial audit

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Africa objects to US proposal on controversial IHR amendments
Meanwhile India discovers irregularities in WHO financial audit

Shabnam Palesa Mohamed
May 27

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Africa Day, 25 May, has made an impact. In a rare show of African power and solidarity, several African states objected to the International Health Regulations amendments, discussed at the World Health Assembly 75 this week – a move delegates say might prevent passage at the World Health Organization’s annual assembly.

A well placed source shared: “The resolution on IHR amendments was not passed at the WHA, as African countries were concerned that there was inadequate consultation amongst member states, and the process was being rushed. Botswana read the statement on behalf of the 47 AFRO members and I was personally present.”

According to Reuters, “if Africa continues to withhold support, it could block one of the only concrete reforms expected from the meeting, fraying hopes that members will unite on reforms to strengthen the U.N. health agency’s rules as it seeks a central role for itself in global health policy.”

The IHR seeks to define and detail WHO members’ obligations around public health emergencies and other health matters. The United States government proposed 13 controversial IHR amendments, which give the WHO DG Tedros unilateral power to declare actual or potential health emergencies and expect a response in 48 hours.

The draft proposal yet to be formally decided also aims to change article 59 of the IHR, and would accelerate the implementation of future amendments.

The African #WHA75 delegation expressed reservations about these IHR amendments, saying all reforms should be tackled together as part of a “holistic package” at a later stage.

“The African region shares the view that the process should not be fast tracked…,” Moses Keetile, deputy permanent secretary in Botswana’s health ministry, told the assembly on Tuesday on behalf of the Africa region.

“We find that they are going too quickly and these sorts of reforms can’t be rushed through,” said a concerned African delegate in Geneva. The U.S. mission in Geneva did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

BRIMI emerges: Brazil, Russia, Iran, Malaysia and India
Brazil and Russia form part of the BRICS initiative with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Iran and Malaysia are reported to have also expressed reservations to the proposed IHR amendments, while Russia and Brazil seem set to make big moves on international health policies, or possibly even exit the WHO. Meanwhile, India raised audit concerns on irregularities with WHO financials.

A civil society World Health Assembly monitor shared “Just for your interest, from the external audit done by India team, who yesterday during the financial comittee stated that they feel very disappointed that their audit has been ignored by WHO.”

Time line, duplication, and US push back
The IHR amendments discussions are parallel to talks on a potential new pandemic treaty (#PandemicAccord) , raising concerns over duplication and waste of funding given to the WHO.

Given the trajectory, it appears that both the IHR amendments and the new pandemic accord, if successful, will converge on the world in 2024, unless countries decide to curtail the WHO’s power and take charge of their health.

This 2024 date was highlighted in the working group on IHR amendments: “Delegates welcomed the final report of the Working Group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies which, among other things, proposed a process for taking forward potential amendments to the IHR (2005). They agreed to continue the group, with a revised mandate and name (the “Working Group on IHR amendments” (WGIHR)) to work exclusively on consideration of proposed IHR amendments. Member States also requested the Director-General to convene an IHR Review Committee to make technical recommendations on the proposed amendments that may be submitted.