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9th June, 2022

Building back better: towards a gender-responsive international instrument for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response



We, a coalition of civil society organizations and academic and research institutions committed to gender equality and women’s rights, call on Member States to commit to gender equality and human rights in the new international instrument to maintain a firm focus on equitable prevention, preparedness and response that leaves no one behind.


The gender implications of COVID-19 pandemic have been reflected in multiple publications[i], including WHO’s Gender and COVID-19: Advocacy brief[ii] and COVID-19 and violence against women brief[iii]. Drawing attention to the harmful implications of gender-blind responses in previous outbreaks, such as HIV, Zika and Ebola, early in the pandemic we emphasize the need for gender responsive research for health equity and human rights in the context of COVID-19 pandemic in our call for action[iv]. In a civil society dialogue with WHO Director-General, Civil Society partners shared a set of expectations of WHO on achieving a gender transformative COVID-19 response.[v]


In the process of drafting and negotiating an international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, it is time to reflect on lessons learned and call attention to Member States’ commitments and obligations related to gender

equality in various international instruments and regulations, requesting these to be reaffirmed, recognized and their importance emphasized in the new instrument.


More specifically, we wish to invite the newly constituted Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and Member States to, in addition to reiterating previously made commitments, incorporate the following substantive elements in the instrument: 

Gender responsive evidence must guide pandemic preparedness, control, and response

• Collection and reporting of data disaggregated by sex and age, and by other social, economic, and structural determinants of     health, must be ensured from the beginning to track patterns of transmission, mortality, morbidity, access to testing, treatment,     hospitalization, vaccination, and protective measures, among others, to capture who is at risk and who is left behind.


• Research (quantitative and qualitative) needs to include population groups at risk (in a safe and respectful manner), including     pregnant women and children, and be designed and conducted in a way to allow meaningful intersectional gender analysis       to ensure equal safety, efficacy and effectiveness of diagnostic tools and therapeutic and preventive interventions. As such,         all research must be reported in line with the Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) guidelines[vi] and publications             made freely available.


• The impact of future pandemic response planning on social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights must be analyzed           through an intersectional gender lens to understand and respond effectively to multiple dimensions of inequality[vii].


Strategies, policies, and response plans must be inclusive, equitable, account for gender dimensions and align with human rights standards

• Member States must guarantee that policies and interventions, including recovery plans, are grounded in evidence that               accounts for the significance of sex and gender and their intersection with other dimensions of inequality. Gendered social,         economic, and human rights repercussions as well as other health impacts must be considered when developing mitigation       strategies.


• States must recognize that the right to adequate standards of physical and mental health should be addressing barriers and       promoting access to health which includes understanding and appropriately responding to intersectional gender dimensions       that further marginalize and discriminate against certain groups, including but not limited to people of diverse sexual                   orientation and gender identity, adolescents, sex workers, people who use drugs, people living with HIV, migrants and                 refugees, people with disability, people in prison, and older people, in particular older women.


• Human rights-based responses to the crisis must be gender transformative, inclusive, equitable and universal to ensure that       no one is left behind. Such responses must also ensure that health care is available, accessible, acceptable, and of good           quality.

More specifically, in the new instrument, there must be explicit reference to:

  • measures to prevent disruption of sexual and reproductive health services and to guarantee their access

  • adequate investment by each State to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in a timely manner during emergencies and crisis

  • the need for accountability mechanism for guaranteeing zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse of power

  • appropriate consideration of the gendered impact on the health workforce and health systems

Meaningful participation is key for a gender-responsive and human rights-based approach to any pandemic

• Meaningful participation of diverse groups of women’s organizations, LGBTQI+ groups and men’s organizations focusing on       feminist approaches and gender equality from around the globe, through a transparent and inclusive process is imperative for     an effective, acceptable, and successful pandemic preparedness, control, and response[viii]. This includes ensuring gender         balance in governance bodies, expert taskforces or other decision-making bodies.


• Human rights including gender equality must guide any public health response, ensuring that any emergency measures —         including states of emergency — are legal, proportionate, necessary, and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and               duration, consider the gender implications of any measures and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect                   public health, human rights, and the rule of law. The gender implications must be considered prior to the imposition of any           rights limitations in public health or emergency measures.


• In 2021, a group of community, civil society and academic experts developed Ten Human Rights Principles for a Pandemic         Treaty[ix]. These Principles are a useful starting point for advocacy to ensure the conformity of the proposed Instrument to             international human rights law and standards.

Organizational endorsements 


Harm Reduction International 

Medicines for Malaria Venture 

Concept Foundation 

Gender Centre, Geneva Graduate Institute 
Women in Global Health  

Women in Global Health – Switzerland 

HumanImpact5 HI5 Association 

Global Action on Men’s Health 

Giving Women 


UNITE Global Parliamentarians Network to End Infectious Diseases  


Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative – DNDi 

Alliance for Health Promotion  

Swiss Alliance for Women’s Health 

Women’s Age Lab – Women's College Hospital 

European Association of Science Editors  

Spark Street Advisors 

International Commission of Jurists

Shekinah Girls' Empowerment and Protection Initiative

Euro Health Net

Global Health Technologies Coalition

Yarrow Global Consulting

African Women 4 Empowerment

Pan African Health Systems Network

IMEK Research Center in Marketing and Development

Individual Signatories*  

Shirin Heidari, GENDRO and Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director, Harm Reduction International 

Silvia Ferazzi, Senior Director, Advocacy, Medicines for Malaria Venture 

Gabrielle Landry Chappius, Co-Founder, HumanImpact5 – HI5 Association and Women in Global Health Switzerland 

Michaela Told, Co-Founder, HumanImpact5 – HI5 Association and Women in Global Health Switzerland 

Metin Gülmezoglu, Executive Director, Concept Foundation 

Elisabeth Prügl, Professor of International Relations, Co-Director, Gender Centre, Geneva Graduate Institute  

Nicole Bourbonnais, Associate Professor of International History and Politics, Co-Director, Gender Centre, Geneva Graduate Institute  

Claire Sommerville, Executive Director, Gender Centre, Geneva Graduate Institute  

Bernard Kadasia, President, Alliance for Health Promotion and Board Member, GENDRO 

Neha Singh, Associate Professor & co-Director of the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK 

Peter Baker, Director, Global Action on Men’s Health  

Atalanti Moquette, Founder, Giving Women 

Sarah Simpson, EquiACT  

Shelley Lees, Professor of Anthropology of Global Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK 

Jeannette Wolfe, MD Professor of Emergency Medicine, UMass-Chan School of Medicine- Baystate 

Julia Smith, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University 

Gary Barker, Equimundo 

Simone Carter, Lead Integrated Outbreak Anlaytics, UNICEF Public Health Emergencies  

Sridhar Venkatapuram, International Resource Group for Global Health Justice (IRG-GHJ) 

Nathaly Aya Pastrana, IMEK Research Center in Marketing & Development and Latin American Social Marketing Association (LAMSO)  

Michelle Childs, Director Policy Advocacy, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative – DNDi 

Abha Saxena, Independent Bioethics Advisor, Geneva   

Roojin Habibi, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University  

Michela Manna, Gender Specialist at WHO   

Helen Prytherch, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute 

Carmen Sant Fruchtman, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute 

Paula Rochon, Womens Age Lab at Women’s College Hospital 

Robin Mason, Women’s College Hospital 

Paola De Castro, Director Scientific Communications, Italian National Institute of Health 

Anna Maria Giammarioli, researcher, Italian National Institute of Health 

Suerie Moon, Professor of Practice and Co-Director, Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva 

Mohammad Karamouzian, Brown University, RI, USA  

Mira Johri, Professor, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada 

Nina Schwalbe, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University 

Roberta Masella, Centre for Gender Medicine, Italian National Institute of Health 

Elena Ortona, Center for Gender Medicine, Italian National Institute of Health 

Alessandra Carè, Director Center for Gender Medicine, Italian National Institute of Health

Maria Halkias, GENDRO Board Member

Tamara Mawhinney, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva 

 *Disclaimer:  The individual signatories are endorsing the principles presented in this Consensus Statement in their individual capacity and unless their organisations have endorsed the statement and lent their logo, these individuals do not necessarily represent the views, decisions, or policies of their respective organization. 

Online Endorsees

General Director, Dianova International
Dr. Bernadette
Pan African Health Systems Network
London School of Economics and Political Science
SUNY Downstate School of Public Health, Brooklyn, NY, USA
ER Global Consult
Assistant Professor, University of Rhode Island
Akua Sena
Sara (Meg)
Graduate Institute Geneva
Geneva University Hospitals
Pfaffmann Zambruni
Yonally Phillips
Senior Epidemiologist, Intergated Outbreak Analytics Lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme
Independent Researcher
Indiana University Bloomington
Shekinah Girls' Empowerment and Protection Initiative
Reseau Femme er Développement REFED-Kasai-Oriental RD CONGO
International Humanitarian worker
Bueno de Mesquita
Senior Lecturer and Co-Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre, School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

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