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Understanding the ‘Pandemic Treaty’ and it’s relevance for people who use drugs

In December 2021 the World Health Assembly (WHA) held a Special Session, the second-ever since WHO’s founding, and agreed to develop a ‘WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness’ – the so-called ‘Pandemic Treaty’. The decision establishes an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate the instrument. The INB held its first sessions in February and March 2022 to elect bureau officers and agree on working methods and timelines, with finalisation of the pandemic treaty set for May 2024.

Because communities and key populations – including people who use drugs – played such a crucial role in the COVID-19 response, our inputs are critical for future pandemic prevention and preparedness. The pandemic treaty is also a way to help avoid repeating the shortcomings we witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic response, where key populations and marginalised communities were disproportionately affected by misuse of emergency powers or saw our needs ignored entirely.

INPUD has already contributed to the first INB Public Hearings by submitting a joint written statement alongside Harm Reduction International and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects. Our statement calls for the pandemic treaty to be developed with meaningful consultation with communities most impacted, and aligned with international human rights laws and standards, building upon and enhancing human rights protections.

Below please find several briefs developed by HRI outlining more about what the pandemic treaty will cover, the timeline of the process, why it is relevant to communities and civil society, and how to participate in the INB process moving forward.