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Pandemic: Negotiations On WHO Agreement Enter Final Round

On Monday, 194 member countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) continued their negotiations to reach an agreement on a pandemic preparedness treaty in Geneva.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO members called for an accord to ensure countries were better equipped to handle the next catastrophic outbreak and that the global response was less chaotic.

For instance, advocates want the planned treaty to include a WHO-coordinated supply chain network so that all countries have access to the medicines they need in an emergency without trade restrictions.

Similarly, part of the production of medicines or vaccines would be made available to poorer countries free of charge or at low cost. The provisions would only apply to countries that ratify the agreement. It would come into force once 60 countries have done so.

The goal was to have the treaty adopted at this year’s World Health Assembly, which is the WHO’s supreme decision-making body. The meeting will be held starting at the end of May.

But the last round of negotiations earlier this year failed to reach a breakthrough. The talks that began on Monday are seen as the last opportunity to forge an agreement before the May deadline.

In the struggle to reach a consensus, the negotiators have presented a radically shortened draft compared to the earlier version.

It now runs to 23 pages, with numerous contested provisions omitted.

One controversial issue is whether and how pharmaceutical companies should be obliged to share expertise and make a portion of their products available to poorer countries.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) argued that the treaty must regulate global health and justice issues and not just protect the industry’s interests.