Some countries didn’t even know the regulations existed, his group reported. Others lacked laws critical to responding to outbreaks, such as those that allow quarantines.
Changing these regulations would require “years of negotiation,” said Dr. Wieler, noting that the latest set took a decade to complete. Instead, one of the main recommendations of his committee was to increase the accountability of countries for their commitments, including a pandemic treaty and regular readiness review that would involve other countries.
The independent panel also proposed the establishment of an international council, led by heads of state, to raise awareness of health threats and oversee a multi-billion dollar funding program to which governments would contribute based on their capabilities. It would promise quick payouts to countries struggling with a new outbreak and give them an incentive to report.
“There will only be the political will to create these things if something disastrous happens,” said Dr. Mark Dybul, one of the panel members. These recommendations came in part from his experience as director of the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, known as Pepfar, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Dr. However, Wieler, who led the other international review, said that creating new institutions in general, rather than focusing on improving existing ones, could increase costs, make coordination difficult and harm WHO
The panels’ recommendations after global emergencies were sometimes followed up. The 2014 and 2015 Ebola outbreak led to the creation of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, which aims to strengthen the Agency’s role in managing health crises and to provide technical guidance. A report released earlier this month found that the new program had received “increasingly positive feedback” from countries, donors and partner agencies as it tackled dozens of health and humanitarian emergencies.
The WHO before and after the Ebola outbreak are “basically two different agencies,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, a former MSF international president and a member of the independent panel. Dr. Liu was one of the WHO’s most astute critics during the Ebola response, and she noted a “significant improvement” in how quickly the agency had declared an international emergency this time.