Today’s big question

What would an international pandemic treaty look like?

World leaders make joint plea for global cooperation to tackle next major health crisis

Boris Johnson has teamed up with 23 other world leaders to call for a new global treaty to help the world prepare for future pandemics. 

As the battle against Covid enters a second year, the British prime minister and counterparts including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel have issued a plea for a joint settlement like that forged after the Second World War. 

In a statement published in The Telegraph, they say: “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 cooperation - namely peace, prosperity, health and security.” 

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The call for stronger cross-border ties has also been published in other newspapers worldwide, including France’s Le Monde, Spain’s El Pais and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and is being backed by World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The health boss and political leaders warn that another pandemic or global health crisis is a matter of “not if, but when”, adding: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”

The new treaty being proposed would be “rooted in the constitution of the World Health Organization”, while drawing in “other relevant organisations key to this endeavour”, and would support the principle of “health for all”, the statement continues. International health regulations and other “existing global health instruments” would underpin the treaty, ensuring “a firm and tested foundation on which we can build and improve”.

The main goal would be to “foster an all of government and all of society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics”. And achieving this aim would involve “greatly enhancing international cooperation” to improve alert systems, data-sharing and research, as well as the local, regional and global production of vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

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The new treaty would also champion a “One Health” approach that “connects the health of humans, animals and our planet”, the world leaders add, before arguing that “we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis”. 

The publication of the statement comes in the wake of a series of disagreements between the UK and the EU over Covid vaccine supplies, with Brussels threatening to prevent jabs from being exported to countries outside the bloc. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned earlier this month that Brussels had to ensure that Europe “gets its fair share” of the vaccines, and called on other nations to hand over more doses.  

The minister overseeing the distribution of Covid jabs in the UK, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that making vaccines available to other countries “can happen once we have a surplus of vaccines here in the UK”.

“But obviously, we want to work in the spirit of cooperation as well, and when we do have surpluses we’ll be looking to export those, I’m sure,” he added.

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