Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday announced that former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has agreed to serve as co-chair of the agency’s recently constituted evaluation committee.
Sirleaf is joined by former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, as both women gear up to lead the committee, which Tedros intimated would be called “The Independent panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response”.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand has previously led the UNDP, while former President Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Prime Minister Helen Clark and President Ellen Sirleaf were selected through a process of broad consultation with Member States and world experts. I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process”, Dr. Tedros said, expressing confidence in the Co-chairs’ capabilities.
“This cannot be another blue-ribbon panel that issues a report that goes up on the bookshelf”, Tedros urged.
“We must come together in a global conversation, to take these hard-won lessons and turn them into action”, he said.
According to Tedros, the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels poses a greater threat than the Coronavirus pandemic.
“My friends, make no mistake. The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself”, he said.
He therefore urged every individual to reflect on the importance of cooperation. This is coming days after the United States, under the Donald Trump administration, officially pulled away all support and funding from the World Health Organization.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a test of global solidarity and global leadership. The virus thrives on division but is thwarted when we unite”, Tedros said.
“We Cannot Go Back To Business As Usual”–Dr. Tedros
WHO Chief Tedros has warned the global scene to get ready for the possibility of future global outbreaks, even as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on.
“And the many other challenges of our time, such as antimicrobial resistance, inequality and the climate crisis”, he added.
“COVID-19 has taken so much from us. But it is also giving us an opportunity to break with the past and build back better. I want to see this as an opportunity. It is a crisis but opportunities are born from crisis.
We cannot go back to the way we did things before, my friends. Business as usual has failed us”, he said.
Dr. Tedros, addressing a Live session of the WHO weekly Member States information session on Thursday made the following proposals for how the panel can take its work forward:
- The terms of reference for the panel will be developed in consultation with Member States, and the co-chairs will be in the lead.
- I propose that the co-chairs will select the other members of the panel.
- We encourage all Member States to offer suggestions for world-class candidates that can fulfil the role to be members of the panel that can be considered by the co-chairs. Having a longer list helps select the best panel members that can help our distinguished co-chairs.
- I also propose that the panel will have an independent secretariat. In the past, we used to have our internal evaluation department that serves as a secretariat in independent evaluations. But this is a very unique situation and I propose that we would like to have an independent secretariat fully accountable to the two co-chairs and the panel.
- To keep Member States up to date on the progress and any interim findings, I propose that we have one mission briefing per month dedicated to updates on implementation of the resolution and for consultation.
- I have also consulted with Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Chair of the Executive Board, in the context of the ongoing and unprecedented public health emergency relating to COVID-19. In line with what Dr Vardhan and I agreed, I am proposing to call a Special Session of the Executive Board in September to discuss progress and to give guidance.
- In November, we will resume the World Health Assembly, and the Independent panel will present an interim report.
- In January, the Executive Board will hold its regular session, where we will further discuss the panel’s work.
- In May of next year, at the World Health Assembly, the panel will present its substantive report to the health findings.
- Of course, these are broad milestones until next year in May. But the panel co-chairs will decide on the details and on the needs beyond May.
WHILE THE INDEPENDENT EVALUATION PANEL performs its work, there are obvious low hanging fruit that can be acted on, such as universal peer review and the binary PHEIC mechanism for the International Health Regulations, which we have already started working on. Members States were discussing this issue and we need to move on it.
The Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme will also continue its existing work. As you remember, it has already reported its work from January to April.