The Dissonance Around a Pandemic Treaty; What the Damning Allegations in the DRC Mean for WHO; TRIPS Waiver Stalemate

Newsletter Edition #95 [The Weekly Primer]

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One is faced with a loss of words in processing that the world’s premier public health agency has to address serious allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation which occurred in the backdrop of an emergency response. This is the kind of governance and moral failure that most organizations will find difficult to recover from.

Could it be that the scores of courageous women from the DRC who shared their personal stories of abuse could contribute to a change in the way such incidents are addressed in Geneva?

Not just the wronged women in the DRC, donors will also drive governance reforms as a result of this serious report by an independent commission.

WHO’s top boss is at the cusp of re-election. It is not clear whether this report by an independent commission that investigated the allegations of abuse by those affiliated to WHO, in the DRC during the Ebola response, will have any impact on the future of DG Tedros at WHO. He has apologized and has taken responsibility. Some critics have even appreciated WHO for instituting an independent commission. This also goes to show the woeful response to such matters in the past.

Given the raging pandemic of COVID-19, WHO has to recover from this and do better. DG Tedros, likened internally to a war-time general is expected to be re-elected for a number of other factors.

For Tedros, the discussions around a pandemic treaty are gathering steam in the backdrop of these talks on his re-election. While a treaty at this point seems distant, any progress in that direction will be a win for the WHO DG, a key “salesman” of the treaty idea as one Geneva observer remarked.

This curated edition catches you up with a flurry of publications over the weekend, which, read collectively show an increasing dissonance around a pandemic treaty.

Also sharing our exclusive from last week, an update on the discussions at the Sustainable Financing Working Group at WHO: A Replenishment Model for WHO; The Questions Guiding the Pandemic Treaty Talks. Sign up to read.

Until next!



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  • TRIPS Informal Meeting Update [October 4]:

    At the TRIPS Council Informal Meeting today at WTO, discussions between WTO members continued remain in a stalemate with respect to their positions on the waiver proposal according to Geneva-based trade sources.

    Dagfinn Sørli, Norwegian Ambassador to the WTO, and TRIPS Council Chair, has looked to WTO members for directions on the way forward to get around the current impasse. A TRIPS formal meeting scheduled on October 13th, which is expected to be the last one before the Ministerial Conference later this year. This indicates a very limited time to build consensus among members with divergent views on this proposal.

    While some countries urged the TRIPS Council Chair, to work with Ambassador David Walker on the broader WTO response to the pandemic. But it is understood that TRIPS chair insisted on a members-driven outcome on the waiver. (See our earlier story on the Walker process. Opponents to the TRIPS Waiver proposal have referred to “Walker process” as a way to find pragmatic outcomes on IP issues.)

    Sources also suggested that the U.S. seems to protect its original intent on limiting the scope of the waiver to vaccines only as per its initial statement earlier in the year.

    In addition to proponents, co-sponsors, China, Egypt and Pakistan reiterated support for the waiver. The EU, UK, Switzerland continued to oppose the waiver proposal.

    Significantly, South Africa has made what seems to be a final pitch on the benefits of the waiver in a document dated 30 September (IP/C/W/684).

    Sources also said that the informal meeting switched to a formal mode to adopt the oral status report that will be submitted to the General Council later this week. Like those before, this report will suggest that consideration of the TRIPS Waiver proposal, and other proposals will continue to be discussed the TRIPS Council.


My colleague Rithika has put this together for you:





  • Working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies: 4-6 October

  • WTO TRIPS Council Informal Meeting: 4-5 October

  • WTO General Council Meeting: 7-8 October

  • WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE): 4-8 October 

  • UN Secretary-General, WHO Director-General on global COVID-19 vaccination strategy: October 7


From the WTO Public Forum:

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