Countries convene for pandemic treaty talks
GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)
World nations gather to thrash out whether to pursue a pandemic treaty setting out 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, nearly two years on from the first recorded cases.
- The economic turmoil and millions of lives lost have triggered calls for new international defences strong enough to prevent a repeat disaster.
- The World Health Assembly -- the WHO's decision-making body comprising all 194 member states -- is holding an unprecedented special session to consider developing a new accord on pandemic preparedness and response.
- The meeting should conclude with a resolution on the way forward. The desired outcome -- whether a treaty or another formulation -- will come later down the line potentially as far off as 2024.
- But how far countries are prepared to go in agreeing binding terms on getting ready for the next outbreak, and effective systems for stamping it out, remains uncertain.
- The existing International Health Regulations were simply not designed to handle pandemics on the scale of Covid-19, or ensure equity and preparedness.
- The United States is thought to be less keen on talk of a treaty and more focused on agreeing content with rapid impact.
- However, more than 70 countries so far are backing a treaty, the health ministers of 32 of them said in a joint article.
- The ministers -- from nations including Britain, Chile, Germany, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and Turkey -- said a treaty was "the only substantial proposal" that could ensure a "rapid, joint, effective, and equitable global response" to future outbreaks.
- Under that treaty format, the bulk of it could be agreed quickly and elements could then be added to the framework over time.