World leaders call for WHO treaty to prepare for future pandemics

A nurse looks at a monitor in the COVID Intensive Care Unit of the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome, Friday, March 19, 2021.
A nurse looks at a monitor in the COVID Intensive Care Unit of the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome, Friday, March 19, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Copyright AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
By Lauren Chadwick
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World leaders are calling for a treaty preparing for future pandemics and ensuring global access to treatments.


Around two dozen world leaders have called for a new international treaty on preparing for future pandemics in an editorial published on Tuesday.

They include European Council President Charles Michel and several leaders of European countries who joined World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in calling for "a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations."

The COVID-19 pandemic "has taught us one brutal lesson" that no country can go it alone, Michel said at a press conference on Tuesday with the WHO. He said the main goal of the treaty would be to better predict, prevent and respond to pandemics globally.

"No one is safe until everyone is safe," Michel added, stating an oft-quoted maxim that the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in global society.

"There are many lessons that we need to draw after this crisis," Michel added later on.

The treaty would be rooted in the constitution of the WHO, the leaders said, and would ensure equitable future global access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics.

Citing the signing of global treaties and multilateralism following the Second World War, the leaders said countries needed to cooperate to address the threat of future pandemics.

"The main goal of this treaty would be to foster an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics," the leaders wrote in the editorial.

Dr Tedros said there was a problem with sharing data and technology, which were challenges that could be addressed in a treaty that would "strengthen the global capacity" to respond to pandemics.

"We are as strong as the weakest link," he added.

Dr Tedros added that the pandemic had thrived among inequalities in society and brought out the best and worst of humanity.

He said COVID-19 had revealed the gaps and inequalities in society, stating that the "world cannot afford to wait until the pandemic is over to start planning for the next one."

The global response to COVID-19 has been criticised for its lack of coordination and equality.

Early on, experts say countries did not follow WHO warnings about the global emergency of COVID-19. WHO officials said on Tuesday that a treaty would bring more weight to the International Health Regulations that were adopted in 2005.

Meanwhile, the global vaccination campaign has been heavily criticised as rich nations bought up available vaccine doses, leaving other countries without the means to inoculate their populations.

Some health activists also criticise EU countries for blocking efforts to waive intellectual property laws to share more vaccines and treatments know-how with lower-income countries.

In response to criticism about the vaccine campaign, Michel said that the EU was engaged to help COVAX get vaccines and was working to increase the manufacturing of vaccines in Europe.

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