Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and ex Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will lead the World Health Organisation’s review into the international COVID-19 response.
In a joint statement on Friday, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and health minister Greg Hunt said Sirleaf and Clark would bring “leadership and experience” to the WHO Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
They also welcomed the opportunity to discuss the panel’s progress at a special session of the WHO executive board in September.
Following that meeting, the panel will present an interim report in November, and a more extensive report at the World Health Assembly in May 2021.
Payne and Hunt said Australia was looking forward to participating in the evaluation to “strengthen the WHO and prevent and mitigate future pandemics”.
“This follows our call for an independent review into COVID-19 and a World Health Assembly resolution supported by a record number of 145 co-sponsors, including Australia,” they said.
“The resolution committed to an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review lessons learnt from the international response as well as further work to identify the source of the virus. Australia has been working closely with the WHO and key partners to maintain momentum and deliver on the World Health Assembly’s mandate.”
Australia’s calls for a review into the pandemic previously sparked criticism from the Chinese government, which accused Australia of “teaming up” with the US to “launch a kind of political campaign against China”.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Clark and Sirleaf were selected through a process of broad consultation with member states and world experts.
“I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process,” he said.
“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation.”