Our pro bono member, the global law firm DLA Piper, has provided crucial pro bono support to the international coalition of Action for Animal Health to more effectively influence the current negotiations for a new WHO Pandemic Treaty, with crucial recommendations on preventing future pandemics caused by zoonoses. This collaboration was made possible by the matchmaking service offered by The Good Lobby.

The Underestimated Risk: Animal Health and Pandemics

The next pandemic could be right around the corner. While more than 75% of all new human infectious diseases come from animals, underinvestment in animal health systems has resulted in critical shortages in veterinary professionals, animal medicines, and vaccines, as well as disease surveillance and poor animal welfare. This escalating situation heightens the risk of pandemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with all its social and economic consequences, has served as a wake-up call for governments regarding the growing threat of zoonoses – infectious diseases that jump from animals to humans. Or at least, it should have been a wake-up call.

Shifting the Focus: A Call for Proactive Pandemic Prevention

Governments in the World Health Organization (WHO) are presently engaged in negotiations for a new global agreement to protect the world from future pandemic emergencies. However, according to Action for Animal Health – a global coalition of multilateral organisations, NGOs, research institutes, and other experts – these negotiators are overly focused on addressing outbreaks once they occur, rather than preventing them in the first place.

This is why Action for Animal Health is fervently advocating for governments to increase investments in animal health systems, encompassing the numbers and skills of professionals, access to medicines and vaccines, disease surveillance, and more. All of these measures are crucial to charting a course towards global health security and sustainable development, aiming to prevent another devastating pandemic.

Recognizing the importance of legal expertise in shaping the new WHO Pandemic Treaty, Action for Animal Health sought pro bono assistance by Francesco Zatelli, head of pro bono at The Good Lobby who connected them with the DLA Piper, a global law firm with a presence in over 40 countries and one of the champions of pro bono across the world.

Collaborative Legal Endeavours: Transforming Pandemic Preparedness

Ellie Parravani from Action for Animal Health initially presented the advisory note containing their recommendations to the pro bono lawyers at DLA Piper who decided to volunteer their time and skills to this project. Here is where Terezie Vondraskova came in: she is an associate at DLA Piper focusing on Real Estate Transactions, Negotiations and Contracts, and in fact her first challenge was addressing areas outside her usual focus or, as she put it,  “pandemic preparedness and animal health are not our bread and butter.” Nonetheless, she volunteered to help and leveraged her extensive experience in drafting business contracts to repurpose recommendations into legally sound clauses for submission to the negotiating body.

“We need to have an effective mechanism for the prevention of pandemics and other spillover of diseases on the international level. It is great that we could take part in it, and I feel really motivated to continue on pro bono work.” – Terezie Vondraskova, DLA Piper

Pro Bono Support: A Catalyst for Change

In the end, Action for Animal Health submitted the refined recommendations to the permanent representatives in Geneva, civil servants within the governments at the negotiation table, and key negotiators. They also shared them with key multilateral organisations like the Quadripartite organisations (WHO, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the UN Environment Programme).

They will vigilantly monitor the Pandemic Treaty negotiations, ready to redirect efforts if necessary to guide these crucial discussions towards global animal health security and effective future pandemic prevention.

“Our friends at the Good Lobby were extremely professional, yet friendly, and worked hard to find us the right support for the problem we wanted to solve. Francesco was gracious, tenacious and didn’t give up when we couldn’t find support straight away.” – Ellie Parravani, Action for Animal Health.