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IOSH backs pandemic accord

Date posted
18 March 2024
Marcus Boocock
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

IOSH is supporting global efforts to protect future generations from a repeat of the suffering and loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is bringing together member states to negotiate and agree a ‘pandemic accord’, which it describes as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”. It is set to be further discussed by Governments at the ninth Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) (18-28 March) before being considered at the 77th World Health Assembly in May.

The accord would set priorities and targets for preparations for and responses to any future pandemics, with the aim of building resilience, ensuring equitable access to measures to prevent the spread of viruses and supporting global coordination through a stronger and more accountable WHO.

Four years on from Covid-19 spreading across the world, IOSH believes the accord would be a step in the right direction but also believes there are areas where it can be strengthened.

Integrated approach

Ruth Wilkinson, IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “The Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity to re-evaluate how international governments engage and work collaboratively, and how national governments, government departments, regulatory bodies and developed administrations, engage and work collaboratively in cross-cutting policy making. We believe that a more integrated approach is needed internationally, nationally and across relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities and with trade unions. For this reason, IOSH supports the principle of a pandemic accord. 

"Within the current proposal and negotiating text, we are pleased to see that human rights are acknowledged and that the approach is being guided by equity at a national and international level, the right to health is recognised, and that the approach will utilise science and be evidence-based, while being proportionate. However, we do recognise that there is an opportunity to strengthen the requirement in respect to human rights by specifying the international laws and standards.

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“Another area is decent work. In a world where we are working toward sustainable development goals, inclusive economic growth, and universal principles, there is a fundamental need for decent work and social protections to be better reflected and strengthened within the accord. Without decent work there will be workplaces operating with poor working conditions and with poor occupational safety and health practice, meaning pandemical preparedness and response actions will be impacted.

“The latest negotiating document of the accord mentions decent work in relation to the health and care workforce only. We would also argue that there is a need to specify other key workers within the accord, in the same manner, reflecting not only their contribution to the economy but to keeping our key services running. These key workers include, but are not limited to, those working in education, transportation, logistics and supply chains and agriculture.”

IOSH therefore urges the INB to align the accord with key principles, including human rights, a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work, and extending employment, health and social protections to all workers. 

International cooperation

IOSH believes that international cooperation and collaboration is key to developing and strengthening pandemic preparedness – for this reason we support the whole-of-society approach.

Ruth added: “We support the strengthening of regulatory systems and building resilience and capacities in health systems. We also support the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches – which means collaboration across employment, education, public health and other sectors – to ensure workers are protected. We also advocate the need for credible and evidence-based information on pandemics, their causes, effects and drivers.

“We back this approach in the interests of addressing misinformation, but also in the interests of having good communication supporting the application of good OSH management systems and practice within workplaces (including within health and social care and other key worker sectors) and good risk management and risk assessment.”  

For the accord to be successful there must also be capacity building. IOSH recognises the vital importance of OSH education, awareness, training and competency for all workers.

Last updated: 21 March 2024

Marcus Boocock

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