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.

What

  1. The economic turmoil and millions of lives lost have triggered calls for new international defences strong enough to prevent a repeat disaster.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The existing International Health Regulations were simply not designed to handle pandemics on the scale of Covid-19, or ensure equity and preparedness.
  6. The United States is thought to be less keen on talk of a treaty and more focused on agreeing content with rapid impact.
  7. However, more than 70 countries so far are backing a treaty, the health ministers of 32 of them said in a joint article.
  8. 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.
  9. Under that treaty format, the bulk of it could be agreed quickly and elements could then be added to the framework over time.