World Leaders Unite For Int’l Pandemic Treaty

A treaty would provide a framework for international cooperation to immediately exchange information at the start of possible pandemics, and channel global resources for research into possible treatments and vaccines, reports Asian Lite News desk.

Twenty-five world leaders have supported a proposal from European Council President Charles Michel to draw up a new international treaty on pandemic preparedness in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Leaders including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an opinion piece along with Michel and World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, dpa news agency reported.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph and publications such as Le Monde in France and El Pais in Spain, the 25 leaders argue that a treaty similar to that reached in the wake of World War Two is needed to build cross-border cooperation.

“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when,” the piece, published on Tuesday, said.

The BBC quoted the letter: “At that time, following the devastation of two world wars, political leaders came together to forge the multilateral system.

“The aims were clear: To bring countries together, to dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism, and to address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation – namely peace, prosperity, health and security.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the other leaders said that in the same spirit, countries must now “be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly co-ordinated fashion”, the BBC reported.

A new treaty would help to establish better systems for alerting people about potential pandemics, they said, while also improving the sharing of data and distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”

The letter added: “At a time when Covid-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful co-operation that extends beyond this crisis.”

The article made the case for a new agreement anchored in the WHO’s constitution that would improve global preparedness for pandemics and ability to respond.

A treaty would provide a framework for international cooperation to immediately exchange information at the start of possible pandemics, and channel global resources for research into possible treatments and vaccines, Michel said at a virtual press conference with Tedros on Tuesday.

“The time to act is now,” Tedros said, “We must not allow the memories of this crisis to fade and go back to business as usual.”

Michel first put forward the idea in November, but has now won public support from heads of state or government from Indonesia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Tunisia and South Korea, among others.

However, notable omissions from the article’s signatories include the US and China.

Initial reaction among the 194 WHO member countries was “positive”, according to Tedros, who said he hoped all would help take forward debate on the initiative ahead of May’s World Health Assembly.

It was too soon to say whether the treaty could cover contentious issues such as intellectual property on vaccines or more equitable sharing of shots, the WHO chief added.

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