7. About the Panel and its work
The Independent Panel has worked steadily to fulfil its vision to be trusted as an independent, evidence-based, impartial, respectful and diverse body the world can rely on to make bold recommendations which help safeguard every person’s health, economic and social well-being.
The mission of the Panel has been to provide an evidence-based path for the future, grounded in lessons of the present and the past to ensure that countries and global institutions, including WHO, can prevent an outbreak from becoming a pandemic; and if a pandemic occurs, to prevent that from becoming a global health and socioeconomic crisis.
The Panel’s Co-Chairs, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Nobel Laureate, and the Right Honourable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, were appointed by the Director-General. The Co-Chairs were then mandated to select panellists, establish their terms of reference and recruit an independent Secretariat. The Co-Chairs announced the full membership of the Panel on 3 September 2020.
The Panel comprises people with the experiences and expertise to focus on pandemics, health and the broader impacts of COVID-19. Their mix of skills and expertise covers a wide range of areas including infectious disease, global and national health policy and financing, public administration, outbreaks and emergencies, economics, youth advocacy and the well-being of women and girls. Panellists also share knowledge of the international system, including WHO, and other relevant international processes.
The Panel was charged with reviewing the spread, actions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, compile facts, distil lessons and make evidence-based recommendations to ensure countries and global institutions, including WHO, can more effectively address health threats.
The Panel has taken a systematic, rigorous and comprehensive approach to its work and has placed an emphasis on listening and learning from others. Since mid-September, the Panel has conducted numerous literature reviews, its own original research, has learned from dozens of experts in round-table discussions and in-depth interviews, has heard directly from people working on the front line of the pandemic in town-hall style meetings, and has invited contributions from anyone wishing to make one. The Panel have benefited from interactions with the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, the IHR Review Committee and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee. The Panel has met formally six times, and several times in subgroups to discuss specific areas.
The Independent Panel has valued openness and transparency throughout, publishing news summaries and meeting reports shortly after each meeting. The Secretariat has operated in an open-door manner and welcomed conversations with anyone who has wished to speak to it.
At its second meeting on 20–21 October 2020, the Panel established a Program of Work, which includes four interconnected themes: to build on the past by learning from previous epidemics and pandemics, including the extent to which lessons and recommendations from these have been applied; review the present, examining why and how COVID-19 became a global pandemic, including building an authoritative chronology of facts and actions by countries, regional and international actors; understand the impact of COVID-19 on people’s health and on health systems, including the role of communication and community resilience and the significant socioeconomic impact; and identify gaps in the international system recommend changes for the future.
The Program of Work laid out specific questions for review, and the Panel has studied these through:
desk reviews of selected topics to provide background reports to the Panel;
semi-structured in-depth interviews with key actors from national governments, academia, international organizations, including WHO, civil society, health workers and subject-matter experts;
requests for information to WHO through a repository established by the Panel;
expert round tables that allowed the Panel to learn from and listen to a wide range of resource persons who are knowledgeable and experienced on different aspects of the Program of Work. Topics included:
- A future international system
- WHO Financing
- Essential Supplies
- From Science to policy
- Access to Vaccines
- Socioeconomic impact - regional dimensions
- Socioeconomic impact – global perspectives
- Private sector roundtable
- National Responses
- Therapeutics and Diagnostics
- Mobilizing Across Generations to Realize Health and Social System Reforms
- Human Rights
- Communication and Community Engagement
- Sustaining and Strengthening Cities During a Pandemic: A Roundtable Discussion with Mayors
- Digital solutions
papers on key topics relevant to each of the sections, commissioned by the Panel;
a public call for contributions: Member States, academics, civil society and front-line workers were invited to contribute their experiences and ideas through the Panel’s website, both on the Program of Work and on the chronology; more than 90 submissions had been made at time of publication of the present report;
open webinars EXCHANGE inviting specific groups and themes to talk about their experiences, lessons and ideas for future with Panel members; these attracted hundreds of participants from around the world, including speakers from remote areas; recordings and reports from these meetings are available on the Panel’s website:
- Learning from nurses on the front line of COVID-19
- COVID 19: delivering sexual and reproductive health and rights services in crisis settings
- Youth on the front lines of COVID-19
- Learning from midwives at work during a pandemic
- The gendered impact of COVID-19
- Noncommunicable diseases: affecting and affected by COVID-19
Reporting to WHO's governing bodies
The Independent Panel reported to the WHO Executive Board Special Session on 5–6 October 2020, to the resumed 73rd World Health Assembly in November 2020, to the WHO Executive Board in January 2021; it will present this report to the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly in May 2021.
Members of the Independent Panel
The members of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response are:
- Rt Hon. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand (Co-Chair)
- H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Nobel Laureate (Co-Chair)
- Mauricio Cárdenas, Senior Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former Finance Minister of Colombia
- Aya Chebbi, African Union Special Envoy on Youth, diplomat, pan-African activist and feminist, from Tunisia
- Mark Dybul Professor at Georgetown University and former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, from the United States
- Michel Kazatchkine, Professor of Medicine and global health diplomat from France; and a former head of the Global Fund
- Joanne Liu, Canadian physician, Professor at McGill University and former International President of MSF, including during the response to Ebola
- Precious Matsoso, former Director-General of Health from South Africa, and former Chair of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Emergencies Programme
- David Miliband, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Rescue Committee, and former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom
- Thoraya Obaid, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- Preeti Sudan, Former Secretary of Health of India, and former Vice-Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
- Ernesto Zedillo, Former President of Mexico and economist, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale University
- Zhong Nanshan, Professor of Department of Respiratory Disease, Guangzhou Medical University, China and Director of the National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease
The Independent Panel has been supported by a Secretariat headed by Anders Nordstrom and including Alexandra Phelan, Celeste Canlas, Christine McNab, Helena Legido-Quigley, Jane Saville, Marjon Kamara, Mathias Bonk, Michael Bartos, Michael Dumiak, Mike Kalmus Eliasz, Nellie Bristol, Rosemary McCarney, Salma Abdalla and Shun Mabuchi. George Werner served as advisor to Co-Chair H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, together with Raj Panjabi until 31 January 2021, and Sudhvir Singh as advisor to Co-Chair the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark.
The Independent Panel documents
The Independent Panel published the following final documents in May 2021.
The main report
COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic
COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic Summary
The companion narrative
How an Outbreak Became a Pandemic: The defining moments of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Learning from the past
- The Chronology
- From Science to Policy
- National and sub-national responses
- Access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics
- Scaling up Vaccine Production Capacity: Legal Challenge
- Access to Essential Supplies
- Impact on Essential Health Services
- The Social impact
- Community involvement
- Human Rights
- Understanding Communication
- The Economic impact
- International financing
- WHO – an institutional review
- International Treaties and Conventions