| Paper | Exploring the potential value and risk of an Intergovernmental Panel for One Health in addressing future pandemics

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Published on
August 10, 2023
An original reflective piece published in the August issue of The Lancet Global Health journal examines the potential benefits and drawbacks of establishing an Intergovernmental Panel for One Health (IPOH) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Signed by 16 experts representing academic and governmental institutions from eight countries, the paper is the result of a consultative process facilitated by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface and the MOOD project.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for more effective global governance mechanisms to address pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR). Strengthening the organisation of knowledge production and uptake is crucial in addressing these challenges.One approach gaining attention is the mainstreaming of the One Health (OH) strategies, which recognise the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health in the emergence of pathogens. Operationalising this approach however entails efforts to integrate knowledge and strengthen global coordination. To tackle these challenges, researchers and practitioners have proposed the creation of intergovernmental science-policy panels, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in sectors related to OH and PPR.

An Intergovernmental Panel for One Health

The new paper, titled "The Value and Risk of an Intergovernmental Panel for One Health to Strengthen Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response" is authored by a team of transdisciplinary experts representing academia, governmental and boundary organisations. The group joined forces following a workshop organised by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface and the MOOD project at the 2022 Geneva Health Forum, titled “Rethinking the science-policy interface for One Health global policy”.

Photo of the working group during the workshop at the Geneva Health Forum in May 2022.

The paper emphasises the importance of mainstreaming the One Health approach to address the emergence of pathogens at the intersection of human, animal, and environmental systems. It looks into the potential of an IPOH as a platform to synthesise and disseminate knowledge from a One Health perspective. According to the findings, an IPOH could: 1) provide authoritative synthesis of knowledge across disciplines and institutions, 2) ensure PPR and OH remain high on the political agenda, 3) support policy design and implementation to operationalise OH strategies, and 4) promote coordination and synergies among global health stakeholders.

Foreseeing the challenges

However, the paper also highlights several potential challenges associated with the establishment of an IPOH. These challenges include limitations in scope, potential difficulties in knowledge uptake by policymakers, the need for rapid response in the face of fast-spreading pandemics, and coordination with existing stakeholders in the already active global health landscape.

To further assess the feasibility and impact of an IPOH, the paper suggests two avenues of work. First, engaging relevant stakeholders, including international organisations, governments, scientists, and civil society organisations, in a landscape and gap analysis to understand the potential overlap and complementarity with existing structures. Second, considering the potential scope and inclusiveness of an IPOH's mandate and drawing inspiration from successful models like the IPCC and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The authors emphasise the need for careful consideration and discussions with key stakeholders to determine whether an IPOH is the most effective solution to strengthen pandemic PPR. They also highlight the importance of aligning the IPOH's mandate with relevant legal frameworks and policy fora.

A growing momentum

The paper concludes that there is momentum for applying the One Health approach in global policymaking to improve pandemic PPR and beyond. The structure of the science-policy interface in this field will be central to fostering more effective policies. As international mechanisms increasingly acknowledge the One Health approach, it is critical to choose the most effective and appropriate way forward, be it by designing new institutions, such as an IPOH, or broadening the scope of existing structures, such as the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP).

The full paper, "The Value and Risk of an Intergovernmental Panel for One Health to Strengthen Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response," is available here.


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