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WHO member nations vote to start drafting plan to deal with future pandemics

By Arghyadeep on Dec 01, 2021 | 05:31 AM IST

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• The goal of the World Health Assembly is to vote on an international agreement in 2024

• Nations still disagree on the need for a legally binding treaty

World Health Organization member countries voted on Wednesday to start a process to draft an international agreement to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response for future pandemics, as more cases of the new variant of COVID-19, omicron, starts popping up worldwide.

The WHO’s members approved a proposal that set a deadline of 2024 to try to implement measures.

Also Read: Dissecting the latest coronavirus variant threat — Omicron

The organization also set out a timeline to work on the progress. WHO said under the decision, the intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) will hold its first meeting by 1 March and by 1 August in the next year to discuss progress on drafting the treaty.

It will deliver a progress report on the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023 and submit its outcome to vote on the agreement by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.

However, even after the consensus decision, the nations didn’t resolve the biggest disagreement — whether the accord should be a legally-binding treaty.

Foreshadow of COVID-19

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the many flaws in the global system to protect people from pandemics,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told member countries.

Reluctance from some countries, including the U.S. and Russia, has delayed progress on the idea, and to which Tredos blamed the “‘me-first’ approaches that stymie the global solidarity needed to deal with a global threat.”

Also Read: Omicron coronavirus variant: All your questions answered

The proposal also calls for increasing the contributions of WHO member countries to 50% of the base program budget. Tedros said the increase in aid would be a “game-changer.”

The world hasn’t moved swiftly enough to make a new plan for pandemics, according to former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who headed an independent panel that criticized the response to the coronavirus.

Also Read: Pfizer's COVID-19 oral pill to be effective against omicron variant

The assembly concluded that the international system remains unfit to avoid another disease from spiraling into one matching COVID-19, however, today’s commitment “will help to keep future generations safer from the impacts of pandemics,” Tredos said.

Picture Credit: Devex

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