Caribbean CMOs want region’s involvement in negotiations for convention on pandemic prevention
Participants of the Second Special Meeting of the Chief Medical Officers. Caricom Secretariat Photo

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Caribbean chief health medical officers (CMOs) have reiterated the need for full participation by the region in the negotiations currently underway for developing a convention, agreement or other instrument for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

In addition, the CMOs and other Caribbean public health stakeholders have made specific recommendations to ensure the region’s voice is included in the decision-making.

A statement issued by the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat, said the region’s positions were outlined during the Second Special Meeting of the Chief Medical Officers earlier this month.

It said that a meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in December 2021, had acknowledged the disparity that existed between developed and developing states with access to the distribution of essential health commodities required to elicit an adequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement said that the WHA agreed that a legally binding convention, agreement or other instrument should be drafted to address prevention, preparedness and response to future pandemics, hereafter referred to as the ‘accord’.

In February, the zero draft of the convention, agreement, or other instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response was drafted by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and updated in June 2023.

“Since this time, decisions on the content and terms of this convention are being negotiated. However, while individual Caribbean member states have been involved in these negotiations, Caricom, as a community of member states, is still developing a unified position on the proposed articles of the accord and representation in these negotiations,” the Secretariat said.

It said that the meeting earlier this month was intended to address this gap and that in addition to the pandemic preparedness accord, World Health Organisation (WHO) member states are also negotiating amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) in Geneva, which are legally binding for member states.

Concurrently, governments are also negotiating a political declaration of the United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response in New York for adoption in September 2023.

The Secretariat said that the regional public health stakeholders at their meeting also considered the need for the region’s input in these ongoing negotiations.

“Specifically, the meeting facilitated collaborative discussions among CMOs and other Caribbean public health stakeholders on a precise pathway to ensuring the region is fully represented and all concerns and recommendations are incorporated in the negotiations surrounding the accord.

“In addition, the meeting provided the opportunity for member states to understand the process of negotiations and to discuss what coordinating mechanisms can be utilised to formulate a unified position on the content of the accord,” the Secretariat said.

It said more than 46 regional public health stakeholders and other representatives of Caribbean countries participated in the meeting which was chaired by Dr Julio Sabido, chief executive officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness of Belize.

The statement said that following “a rich discussion by all stakeholders, CMOs reiterated the need for full participation by the region in the negotiations currently underway and made specific recommendations to ensure the region’s voice is included in the decision-making”.

The Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development at the Caricom Secretariat, Alison Drayton, in acknowledging the recommendations, said that the Secretariat would respond with substantive proposals on a coordinating mechanism for unified representation in the negotiations.

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