Working together for a healthier, safer world: WHO and IPU renew partnership

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and WHO today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding, reaffirming the critical role that parliamentarians play in enabling good health to foster stable and equitable societies.

The new five-year memorandum was signed by Mr Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, at the 148th IPU Assembly, which is taking place in Geneva from 23 to 27 March 2024. Both organizations commit to continue working together to promote, provide and protect the health and well-being of all people, everywhere. It renews a historic commitment made in 2018 to leverage their respective scientific and political mandates to address persistent and emerging challenges facing populations worldwide.

The memorandum reinforces critical areas of cooperation that align with global health priorities, namely universal health coverage, global health security, health promotion and reducing health inequities, especially in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

It also adds new cross-cutting areas of work, including responding to climate change, support to the government-led negotiations on a new pandemic agreement, and sustainable financing for health. This includes collaboration on this year’s first WHO Investment Round to overcome the historic imbalance between assessed and voluntary contributions, the distortions this creates, and the issues WHO faces with insufficiently predictable and flexible financing.

WHO Member States are staging their latest round of negotiations on an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response before scheduled consideration of a proposal for adoption at the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024. The proposed agreement aims to provide a basis for international cooperation that was lacking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parliaments are instrumental in supporting the process towards adoption, as well as in guiding the follow-up considerations at a national level.

Dr Tedros said: “Parliamentarians play an essential role in setting policies, prioritizing investments and ensuring accountability to advance public health. Political leadership in service of the public saves lives and protects health by ensuring communities and countries are better prepared and designed to be healthier and safer. WHO looks forward to working even closer with the IPU and parliamentarians worldwide to advance efforts to protect and promote people’s well-being, from negotiating a pandemic agreement to prevent a repeat of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to investing in universal health coverage.”

Mr Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic was not an isolated occurrence. Another pandemic will happen. It is not a question of if, but when. Parliaments have a key role, which is why we will continue working with WHO at all levels to raise awareness among parliamentarians on the pandemic agreement and other global health processes; to give parliamentarians access to technical expertise and information; and to support them to pursue their national health priorities and back them with the necessary legislation and resources.”

Milestones of the IPU and WHO’s previous collaboration include a landmark IPU resolution in 2019 on achieving universal health coverage, a number of practical resources for parliamentarians such as a recent handbook on universal health coverage, and numerous events which have brought together health experts and parliamentarians.

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