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Decolonising global health: why the new Pandemic Agreement should have included the principle of subsidiarity.

The negotiations for the WHO Pandemic Agreement have brought attention to issues of racism and colonialism in global health. Although the agreement aims to promote global solidarity, it fails to address these deeply embedded problems. This Viewpoint argues that not including the principle of subsidiarity into Article 4 of the agreement as a pragmatic strategy was a missed opportunity to decolonise global health governance and promote global solidarity. Subsidiarity, as a structural principle, empowers local units to make decisions and address issues at their level, fostering collaboration, coordination, and cooperation. By integrating subsidiarity, the agreement could have ensured contextually appropriate responses, empowered local communities, and achieved justice in global health. This paper discusses the elements of subsidiarity-namely, agency and non-abandonment-and highlights the need to strike a balance between them. It also maps the principle of subsidiarity within the Pandemic Agreement, emphasising the importance of creating a practical framework for its implementation. By integrating subsidiarity into the agreement, a just and decolonialised approach to pandemic prevention and response could have been closer to being realised, promoting global solidarity and addressing health inequities.

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