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Nations Fail to Agree on Treaty on Preventing Next Pandemic
  • Posted May 28, 2024

Nations Fail to Agree on Treaty on Preventing Next Pandemic

Following two years of tough negotiations, efforts to craft a global treaty to help countries fight future pandemics have failed, the World Health Organization has acknowledged.

"WHO Member States have ended intensive negotiations aimed at strengthening global capacities to respond to future pandemics and outbreaks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and agreed to submit outcomes of their work for consideration by the upcoming World Health Assembly, starting Monday," the WHO said in a statement released Friday.

“Over the past two years, WHO Member States have dedicated enormous effort to rise to this challenge posted by COVID-19 and respond to the losses it caused, including at least 7 million lives lost,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement. “While great progress was made during these negotiations, there are challenges still to overcome. We need to use the World Health Assembly to re-energize us and finish the job at hand, which is to present the world with a generational pandemic agreement.”

Back in 2021, member countries asked the WHO to oversee negotiations to figure out how the world might better share resources and stop future viruses from spreading rapidly around the globe.

On Friday, Roland Driece, co-chair of WHO's negotiating board for the agreement, said the World Health Assembly meeting this week will have to chart the way forward.

“We will try everything -- believing that anything is possible -- and make this happen because the world still needs a pandemic treaty,” Ghebreyesus said, the Associated Press reported. “Because many of the challenges that caused a serious impact during COVID-19 still exist.”

The co-chairs of the treaty process didn't specify what caused the collapse of the treaty, but diplomats have said vast differences remain over the sharing of information about pathogens that emerge and the sharing of technologies to fight them, the AP reported.

The latest draft had proposed that the WHO should get 20% of the production of pandemic-related products like tests, treatments and vaccines, and it urged countries to disclose their deals with private companies.

Earlier this month, U.S. Republican senators sent a letter urging President Biden not to sign off on a treaty that is essentially "supercharging the WHO."

Meanwhile, many developing countries said it's unfair that they might be expected to provide virus samples to help develop vaccines and treatments, but then be unable to afford them, the AP reported.

Precious Matsoso, the other co-chair of WHO's negotiating board for the treaty, told the AP there was still a chance to reach agreement on a treaty.

“We will make sure that this happens, because when the next pandemic hits, it will not spare us,” she said.

More information

The KFF has more on the pandemic treaty and its implications for the United States.

SOURCE: World Health Organization, news release, May 24, 2024; Associated Press

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