On February 19, 2015, a group of experts in law, public health, security and medicines, met in Geneva under the auspices of the Global Health Law Committee of the International Law Association and the Global Health Programme of the Graduate Institute|Geneva. The group assembled to discuss the global response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 in West Africa, and the work that needs to be done in order to improve response to pandemic disease threats. Members of the group were associated with multilateral organizations, academic institutions and nongovernmental organizations (including funders), including those that participated in the response. The meeting was organized as an open-ended sharing of ideas. The participants were acting in their individual capacities, and not as representatives of organizations.
A summary synthesis of the discussion is posted along with other materials relating to the subject matter. The posted summary discusses with additional detail:
- A general consensus that the single most effective mechanism to improve prevention of and response to pandemic disease is the strengthening of national health systems, and despite recognition of this by the international community, inadequate systematic attention is being directed to this area.
- There are a number of important issues to address in relation to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics necessary to prevent and control pandemic disease. The potential for outbreak appears to be increasing as pathogens are more frequently jumping the animal to human barrier.
- There was an evident lack of coordinated response to the Ebola outbreak. Subsequently, the role of WHO as lead for health emergency response has been confirmed. But, it is worrisome that governments are not inclined to provide significant financial support to WHO consistent with the urgency evidenced by the Ebola Resolution. There is a strong current of thought that major prospective funding governments are not anxious to relinquish authority to WHO in addressing crises.
There are a number of UN agencies mandated to address humanitarian crises, in addition to WHO, and a number of nongovernmental organizations with substantial capacity in this area. An improved mechanism for coordination of response is needed.