International: Pandemic Treaty must prioritise human rights

International: Pandemic Treaty must prioritise human rights - Transparency

Photo: Martin Sanchez


On 3 December 2021, ARTICLE 19 alongside 15 other organisations, published an open letter calling on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that the drafting process of a “Pandemic Treaty” is transparent and grounded in international human rights law. A human-rights approach to health emergencies is essential given the impact state responses have on fundamental rights.

As the World Health Assembly agrees to begin negotiations to create a Pandemic Treaty, the undersigned organisations reiterate the need for an open and consultative treaty drafting process that considers and applies the human rights lessons learned from past pandemics and most recently from COVID-19, and the serious human rights implications of states’ responses to health emergencies.

Health is a human right. From use of emergency powers and vaccine equity to the protection of marginalised groups and digital rights, the human rights and societal implications of a new, binding legal instrument on pandemics are potentially significant and far-reaching. It is critical that any such process build in from the outset core human rights standards as well as put in place negotiation processes that meaningfully involve communities, civil society, and human rights organisations.

Ahead of the World Health Assembly Special Session in November 2021, we welcomed the chance to share a set of Ten Human Rights Principles for a Pandemic Treaty with the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies (WGPR) and member state mission representatives. We drafted the Principles to provide guidance to WHO Member States to incorporate human rights into the treaty negotiation agenda from the outset and establish clear mechanisms for meaningful civil society consultation.

We now call on WHO Member States to place human rights principles at the forefront of the development of the Pandemic Treaty and to promptly develop inclusive rules for the meaningful and effective participation of a wide range of civil society organisations and community groups, including those not in official relations with WHO, to support the negotiation of the Treaty.


Open Society Foundations (OSF)

Amnesty International

Harm Reduction International

Privacy International

Global Health Law Consortium’s Human Rights Working Group

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

European Center For Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL)

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL)

UNITE Global Parliamentarians Network to End Infectious Disease

Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI)


Fundación Huésped

Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights