WHO chief hails formation of body to negotiate global pandemic treaty

Intergovernmental negotiating body to start work on pandemic preparedness treaty by March.

WHO chief hails formation of body to negotiate global pandemic treaty

The World Health Organization chief on Wednesday hailed a decision by the WHO’s highest governing body on Wednesday to take a step closer to negotiating a treaty on pandemic preparedness, an action he has long advocated.

“I welcome the decision you have adopted today to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention agreement or other international instruments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The agreement could be made binding if it is adopted under Article 19, or it could be adopted under other provisions of the WTO constitution, “as may be deemed appropriate by the intergovernmental negotiating body.”

Tedros spoke after the World Health Assembly ended a “historic” three-day special hybrid session of the governing body.

“I welcome your commitment to an inclusive, transparent, and efficient process led by member states,” said the WHO chief.

“I welcome your commitment to hold the first meeting of the INB no later than the first of March 2022 and to submit its outcome for consideration to the World Health Assembly in 2024.”

Tedros said the decision “is cause for celebration and a call for the hope that we all need.”

He said that many differences in the type of pandemic treaty still have to be overcome to find common ground among the 194 WHO member states.

As the world marks World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the WHO chief said the global AIDS epidemic has claimed more than 36 million lives in over 40 years, and there is still no vaccine and no cure for the disease.

“Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not one, but many vaccines, and many other effective tools,” said Tedros, but “this virus has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear.”

He said that ending the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed at least 5.2 million lives “is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.”

The WHO chief called on all member states to vaccinate 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year and 70% by the middle of next year.