Countries launch WHO pandemic accord talks

The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. /VCG

World Health Organization member states agreed Wednesday to start work on building a new international accord setting out how to handle the next global pandemic.

Countries adopted a resolution at a special meeting in Geneva, launching the process that it is hoped should result in a new agreement on pandemics.

They also agreed to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body “to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instruments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response”.

The body’s first meeting must be no later than March 1 next year to elect two co-chairs and four vice-chairs.

A progress report will be presented at the regular World Health Assembly (WHA) annual gathering in 2023, with the final outcome presented for consideration at the 2024 WHA.

“We need a game change in our global health architecture so that the international community can respond to future pandemics collectively, effectively and immediately,” said Lotte Knudsen, the European Union’s ambassador in Geneva, said in a statement.

“Today’s decision of the WHA will therefore make history. The situation and our citizens demand it: we need to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response if we do not want to find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.”