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Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

On May 22, 2020, Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, was elected the Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board.

The elevation affords India an important platform to steer the global public health response to COVID-19.

Five elements to India’s policy approach, What can be done?

  1. India must insist that epidemic prevention and control remain the international community’s foremost priority. As the virus’ chain of transmission is broken, the focus should shift to identifying the animal-to-human transmission origins of SARS-CoV-2.
  2. India should lean on the WHO secretariat to fast-track the “impartial, independent, and comprehensive review” of the WHO’s – and China’s – early response to the outbreak. The review’s findings should illuminate best practice and highlight areas for improvement, both in the WHO’s leadership and capacity as well as member states’ implementation of the International Health Regulations.
  3. India must promote the establishment of an appropriate multilateral governance mechanism for ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines for all countries. The envisaged voluntary pooling mechanism to collect patent rights and regulatory test data should be suitably tailored to the needs of crisis, and the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property rights provisions overridden (as is allowed during a public health emergency) to assure affordable vaccine availability.
  4. India must stay aloof from the West’s campaign to re-seat Taiwan as an observer at the WHA.
  5. India must lead the call for a permanent global ban on the consumption and trade of wild animals, with limited exceptions built-in for scientific research, species protection and traditional livelihood interests. With two-thirds of emerging infections and diseases now arising from wildlife, the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss must be taken much more seriously.

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-Source: The Hindu

December 2023