Geneva, 20 September 2022 – The Australian Permanent Mission to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva and FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, organised a high-level policy roundtable to discuss the future international instrument on strengthening pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
Speakers included leading experts and academics on One Health and Global Health policy, including Lawrence Gostin, Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law, Natalia Cediel Becerra, Professor in Veterinary Sciences and member of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel, Gian Luca Burci Adjunct Professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Wanda Markotter, Director Centre for Viral Zoonoses & co-chair of the One Health High Level Expert Panel.
This is the second roundtable discussion organised by FOUR PAWS this year, with this session focusing on eliminating risk factors at the human-animal-environment interface via a One Health approach, and the legal architecture necessary to enable an effective treaty.
Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS Pandemic Prevention Expert, spoke of a clear message, “Top experts built a compelling case, we can only prevent future pandemics through a holistic One Health approach to health which includes collaboration across sectors to improve the welfare of animals and the state of our environment because this in turn protects human health. With 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases originating in animals such measures cannot be left out.”
In July, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) with support of the World Health Organization’s Bureau, published a working draft for the consideration of Member States.
“The roundtable fully highlighted that the working draft as it stands will not enable governments to fulfill their objective of saving lives and protecting livelihoods. To give vulnerable communities a fighting chance against future outbreaks, we need to see a legally binding treaty that does not only define post-outbreak measures. The treaty must tackle the root causes of outbreaks, therefore we are urging Member States to enable a paradigm shift in the way we define and implement health policy which includes improving the way we treat animals and reducing the impact of our global food and farming systems on the environment.”
Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS Pandemic Prevention Expert
With Professors Lawrence Gostin and Gian Luca Burci, two high level global health law experts, one of the most pressing questions was on the set up of the international instrument and the necessary scope, the legal framework for a binding instrument was also discussed at the event.
Gostin, stated, "Strong and resilient health systems are vital for pandemic preparedness, but health systems alone cannot prevent outbreaks spilling over into global pandemics. The WHO Pandemic Instrument must embrace a One Health approach, recognizing human health is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. Nations must act in solidarity on key issues of land management, the humane treatment of animals, preserving wild animal habitats, and protection against environmental degradation."
One Health High Level Expert Panel co-chair Wanda Markotter shared insights on the role One Health can play to enable an effective legal instrument.
Markotter, said, "The One Health definition is comprehensive and specifically recognizes that ecosystem, animal and human health are closely linked and interdependent. There is a strong focus on prevention of pandemics. The role of communities at varying levels of society is essential and the benefit of a One Health approach is far beyond preventing pandemics only.
Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB)
In response to the global fallout of COVID-19, in December 2021, at its second-ever special session, the World Health Assembly established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The INB’s work is based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency, Member State leadership and consensus.
An international pandemic instrument will be an important step towards building a more resilient international health architecture and protecting the world from future health crises. With the frequency and severity of pandemics increasing, the inclusion of prevention into the instrument’s scope is welcome and necessary.
One Health is intended to make a difference to our deliberations, decision-making, planning and practice. This is important because we know that we need to do things differently if we are to avoid further pandemics, tackle our environmental crises, and prevent widespread suffering. One Health should constitute a fundamental shift towards a unifying concern for the health of all people and animals in the environments they share, and a holistic consideration of all aspects and determinants of their health. A One Health approach should not simply help us prepare to reduce the impacts of the health and environmental crises. It must also enable us to prevent crises from occurring in the first place. This requires us to tackle the root causes.
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org