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Countries convene for pandemic treaty talks

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Countries convene for pandemic treaty talks

The nations of the world are meeting Monday to discuss whether they should pursue a pandemic treaty outlining how to handle the next crisis, which experts fear is only a matter of time.

The three-day meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva comes with the planet still besieged by Covid-19, almost two years after the first recorded cases.

Economic turmoil and the loss of millions of lives have prompted calls for new international defenses strong enough to prevent a repeat disaster.

“We will have more pandemics in the future. The question is not if, but when, ”Jaouad Mahjour, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness, told reporters.

The World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body comprising all 194 member states, is holding an unprecedented special session to consider the development of a new agreement on pandemic preparedness and response.

The meeting should conclude with a resolution on the way forward. The desired result, be it a treatise or other formulation, will come later, possibly in 2024.

But it remains uncertain how far countries are willing to go to agree on binding terms on how to prepare for the next outbreak and effective systems to eradicate it.

– Fast regulations or stricter treaty? The existing International Health Regulations were simply not designed to handle pandemics on the Covid-19 scale, or to ensure fairness and preparedness, Mahjour said. In fact, the word ‘pandemic’ does not even appear in the texts.

Although their entry into force is faster, the scope of what can be done through regulations is much more limited than that of a treaty.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wants a treaty to end the unfortunate cycle of “neglect and panic.”

“The ongoing chaos of this pandemic only underscores why the world needs an ironclad global agreement to set the rules,” he said Wednesday.

The United States is believed to be less interested in talking about a treaty and more focused on agreeing content with a quick impact.

Yet more than 70 countries are backing a treaty so far, the health ministers of 32 of them said in a joint article.

The ministers, from nations such as Britain, Chile, Germany, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and Turkey, said a treaty was “the only substantial proposal” that could guarantee a “rapid, joint, effective global response. and equitable. ”To future outbreaks.

“We cannot wait for the next crisis before acting,” they wrote.

Ensuring equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments is a key theme of the special session for many African countries that lack the tools to fight this pandemic.

“Whatever we do, we need continued commitment at the highest political level going forward,” said a European diplomat, adding: “We need a legally binding instrument to structure this … it is too important.”

Steve Solomon, the WHO legal director, told reporters that there were “good reasons to believe” that a collective way forward could be found.

– ‘Go ahead’ -The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, convened to analyze the failures in the fight against Covid-19, reported its findings and recommendations in May. He proposed establishing a WHO framework convention.

Under that treaty format, most of it could be agreed quickly and then elements could be added to the framework over time.

“This is not something that should be debated incessantly. Please keep going, ”said panel co-chair Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand on Monday.

After the 74th World Health Assembly in May, a working group was created to find common ground before the special session. He is rushing to finalize a draft resolution for the session to discuss.

It is moving towards proposing an intergovernmental negotiating body to begin drafting and negotiating on the basis of the results of the special session.

Mahjour said the recommendations under discussion fall into four categories: equity; governance and leadership; financing, nationally and internationally; and systems and tools to respond to global health crises.

“There is some urgency … because the world cannot afford to have another pandemic that the world is not prepared for,” Mahjour said.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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