June 25, 2024

The deadline for negotiations passed on Friday

After two years of wrangling, negotiators from the World Health Organization’s 194 member nations failed to reach agreement on a so-called “pandemic treaty.”

On Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, announced that the deadline for negotiation ahead of this week’s World Health Assembly had passed.

The pandemic treaty would have included binding provisions for ratifying nations to implement in the event of another pandemic, including on the distribution of vaccines. The idea of a pandemic treaty was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, in response to apparent failures to coordinate among nations and organizations.

WHO Director General dr. Tedros announces the failure of Pandemic Agreement/Treaty. pic.twitter.com/dWggJDylvn

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One particular sticking point during the negotiations was the willingness of wealthier countries to agree to share medical treatments with poorer countries.

In the US, lawmakers were worried that any potential agreement might infringe on proprietary information and stifle investment in drug development.

There has also been significant concern voiced, in the US and elsewhere, about emergency powers that might be granted to the WHO, especially the ability to define what a pandemic is, when one is in progress and how long it lasts.

There have been calls, including from Senators Tom Cotton and Steve Daines, for the US to leave the WHO altogether. In a letter to President Biden, the two senators wrote, “The WHO has demonstrated an abysmal lack of competence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has destroyed the organization’s credibility and undermined the public’s confidence in it.”

Despite the failure of negotiations, Tedros is confident an agreement will eventually be reached.

“The world still needs a pandemic treaty. Many of the challenges that caused the serious impact during COVID-19 still exist,” he said.

“So let’s continue to try everything.”

It’s believed that the WHO will allocate another six to 12 months for further negotiations.

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