Protection of essential workers in the WHO draft instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

News | 20 March 2024
In December 2021, 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 (WHO) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The ILO actively participates in this process by drawing attention to important issues related to the protection of workers and the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic. On 10 January 2024, the ILO Director-General, Mr Houngbo, addressed a letter to all ILO Member States drawing their attention to the ILO preliminary annotations presented to the draft text A/INB/7/3.

In preparation for the eight meeting of the INB, held at the WHO from 19 February to 1 March 2024, the ILO organized an Information session which gathered around 90 Government representatives.

In the context of the ninth meeting of the INB, held at the WHO on from 18 to 28 March 2024, the ILO noted with appreciation the revised language included in Article 7 which takes into account ILO suggestions in relation to the need to ensure decent working conditions and a safe and healthy environment not only to health and care workers but also to other essential workers that provide essential public goods and services during pandemics.

The ILO drew attention to the need to reinforce the current draft by including adequate measures ensuring the protection of workers who are essential for the normal functioning of supply chains, such as seafarers and other cross-border transport workers.

Finally, the ILO acknowledged the statement recently released by the WHO in the World of Work Network supporting the ILO’s proposed amendments.