Efforts to draft pandemic treaty falter as countries disagree on future response

24 May 2024, 20:04

WHO Pandemic Treaty
WHO Pandemic Treaty. Picture: PA

In 2021, member countries asked the UN health agency to oversee negotiations to work out how the world might better stop viruses from spreading.

A global treaty to fight pandemics such as Covid-19 is on hold after more than two years of negotiations as countries disagree how the world might respond to the next health emergency.

After Covid-19 triggered once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies and killed millions, leaders at the World Health Organisation (WHO) vowed to do better in the future.

In 2021, member countries asked the UN health agency to oversee negotiations to work out how the world might better share scarce resources and stop future viruses from spreading globally.

On Friday, Roland Driece, co-chairman of WHO’s negotiating board for the agreement, acknowledged that countries were unable to come up with a draft.

WHO had hoped a final draft treaty could be agreed on at its yearly meeting of health ministers starting on Monday in Geneva.

“We are not where we hoped we would be when we started this process,” he said, adding that finalising an international agreement on how to respond to a pandemic was critical “for the sake of humanity”.

Mr Driece said the World Health Assembly next week would take up lessons from its work and plot the way forward, urging participants to make “the right decisions to take this process forward” to one day reach a pandemic agreement “because we need it”.

The draft treaty had attempted to address the gap that occurred between Covid-19 vaccines in rich and poorer countries, which WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said amounted to “a catastrophic moral failure”.

Addressing a final day of negotiations, the WHO chief insisted: “This is not a failure.

“We will try everything – believing that anything is possible – and make this happen because the world still needs a pandemic treaty,” he said.

“Because many of the challenges that caused a serious impact during Covid-19 still exist.”

The accord’s aim was to set guidelines for how the WHO’s 194 member countries might stop future pandemics and better share resources. But experts warned there were virtually no consequences for countries that do not comply.

The co-chairs of the treaty-drafting process did not specify what caused the logjam, but diplomats have said vast differences remained over sharing of information about pathogens that emerge and the sharing of technologies to fight them.

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

Earlier this month, US Republican senators wrote to the Biden administration, arguing that the draft treaty focused on issues such as “shredding intellectual property rights” and “supercharging the WHO”. They urged US President Joe Biden not to sign it off.

Britain’s Department of Health said it would only agree to an accord if it adhered to British national interest and sovereignty.

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

Precious Matsoso, the fellow co-chair of WHO’s negotiating board for the pandemic treaty, said there was still an opportunity to reach agreement and that efforts would not stop, despite the inability to reach a deal on Friday.

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

Mr Tedros, the WHO chief, said there should be no regrets.

“What matters now is when do we learn from this and how can we reset things, recalibrate things, identify the main challenges, and then move on,” he said.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Nigel Farage said that the West had provoked Putin into invading Ukraine

'We gave Putin an excuse': Nigel Farage says the West provoked Russia into invading Ukraine

Jay Slater Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day - here's what we know

Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day as Guardia Civill release search footage

Footage has emerged showing Jay Slater hours before he went missing

Missing Jay Slater seen on video at packed Tenerife rave just hours before he vanished as search enters fourth night

When Putin met Kim: Leaders cement alliance with limo drive, concert and pony stroking outing

When Putin met Kim: Leaders cement alliance with limo drive, concert and pony stroking outing

Farah El Kadhi

Influencer Farah El Kadhi dies aged 36 after 'suffering heart attack on yacht holiday in Malta'

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Last person to speak to missing Jay Slater claims he has been kidnapped and ‘something sinister is going on’

Travis Scott

Travis Scott arrested for 'disorderly intoxication and trespassing'

Serbia threatens to quit Euros over Croatia and Albania fans' 'kill the Serbs' chanting - throwing England's group into chaos

Serbia threatens to quit Euros over Croatia and Albania fans' 'kill the Serbs' chants - throwing England's group into chaos

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Jay Slater, missing Brit in Tenerife, rang friend to say he'd 'cut his leg on cactus' and 'didn't know where he was'

German police

'Isis terrorist sleeper agent' arrested in Germany near Euro 2024 host city

Here's everything we know about missing teenager Jay Slater.

Everything we know about missing British teenager Jay Slater who vanished on holiday in Tenerife

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

'I just want my baby back': Mother of missing Brit Jay Slater, 19, issues plea after 'false sighting' delays search

OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein is pictured with CEO Stockton Rush, who died on the Titan sub

Oceangate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send 1,000 people to Venus

Justin Timberlake was arrested on Tuesday

'We'll have a lot to say': Justin Timberlake's lawyer vows to 'vigorously defend' singer after DWI arrest

Putin has visited North Korea

Putin and Kim share 'pent-up inmost thoughts' as Russian and North Korean leaders vow to forge 'multi-polar world'

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Sick fraudsters create fake GoFundMe page for Brit teenager missing in Tenerife