Leaders Appeal for Effective, Binding Pandemic Accord to Protect All Countries
A healthcare worker wearing PPE disinfecting a street in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.lder

World leaders have a duty to deliver “an effective, legally-binding pandemic accord” by May to prevent the devastation wrought by COVID-19, according to a group of influential leaders and organisations.

The call came in an open letter issued on Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global emergency, and was signed by The Elders, The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Pandemic Action Network, The Panel for a Global Public Health Convention, and Spark Street Advisors.

Signatories include former presidents, prime ministers, health ministers and academics.

The accord needs to ensure that “all countries have the capacity to detect, alert, and contain pandemic threats, and the tools and means required to protect people’s health and economic and social well being”, according to the letter.

To succeed, the accord needs three key ingredients, they assert.

The first is equity, ensuring that “every region must have the capacities to research, develop, manufacture, and distribute lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, and treatments”. 

Second, the accord needs to map out a “pathway to sustained financing for pandemic preparedness and response”, including “the additional $10.5 billion per annum needed for the Pandemic Fund to fill basic gaps in low and middle-income countries’ pandemic preparedness funding”. 

Thirdly, countries need to be “held accountable for the commitments they make via the accord”, including via independent monitoring and a regular Conference of Parties. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is hosting the pandemic accord negotiations, with the deadline the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May. However, there are still a multitude of disagreements between countries.

Delay proposed

Last Thursday, during the WHO’s executive board meeting, Poland suggested that it might be better to delay the pandemic accord to ensure an “ambitious, clear and consistent” agreement.  

“It’s very important, especially in reference to a future pandemic treaty, to have an ambitious, clear and consistent document, which will really contribute to the prevention of future crises,” said the Polish delegate.  

“And here I would like to share with you our concern that it would not be beneficial if time pressure leads to a weakening of our ambition, and the quality of the final document.  It is time to ask if we will be ready to present an agreement on a draft pandemic treaty by May 2024?” 

However, Norway, the UK and others  rejected Poland’s suggestion. 

But WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also expressed his concern at the start of the executive board about the gulf between countries on a range of issues at the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB).

Tedros also condemned the global misinformation campaign that is pushing the “lie” that a pandemic agreement will “cede sovereignty to WHO and give the WHO Secretariat the power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries”.

“We cannot allow this milestone in global health to be sabotaged by those who spread lies, either deliberately or unknowingly. We need your support to counter these lies by speaking up at home and telling your citizens that this agreement and an amended IHR [International Health Regulations] will not, and cannot, cede sovereignty to WHO and that it belongs to the member states,” said Tedros.

Image Credits: Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash.

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