A New WHO International Treaty on Pandemic Preparedness and Response: Can It Address the Needs of the Global South?
By Dr. Germán Velásquez and Nirmalya Syam
A recent joint communiqué by 25 Heads of Government and the WHO Director-General have called for the negotiation of a pandemic treaty to enable countries around the world to strengthen national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of the mechanisms at the disposal of WHO for preparedness and response to pandemics. The use of binding instruments to promote and protect health in the context of pandemics is needed. If WHO Member States decide that an international treaty to prepare and respond to pandemics is the way forward, it would be important to have clarity from the outset on the elements and areas that will be the subject of negotiation. The first step should be to identify the aspects of pandemic preparedness and response that the current crisis has revealed are not working, and how to build up on the existing instruments, notably the International Health Regulations (IHR). This paper discusses some of the critical issues that should be addressed in such a treaty if negotiations are launched, in view of the needs of countries at different levels of development and with disparate capacities to implement treaty obligations.