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Pandemic accord talks at loggerheads as time ticks away

Mar 26,2024

The final round of talks on a landmark pandemic accord faces a frantic last push this week, with countries still pulling in different directions on how to handle future global health crises.

The last week of negotiations runs until Thursday with nations trying to hammer out an agreement to make sure the world is better prepared to deal with the next pandemic — or better still, stamp it out before it even happens.

Shaken by Covid-19, which shredded economies, overturned societies, crippled health systems and killed millions, countries decided in December 2021 to build a framework of binding commitments to stop such trauma from ever happening again.

But as two years of talks come to the crunch, major sticking points remain over how far countries are prepared to go.

The ninth and final negotiations round opened on March 18, with daily talks ploughing on late into the evening.

Sealing a deal will involve some serious horse-trading — but the breakthrough moment remains elusive.

Diplomats insist they remain keen to conclude an agreement, but the various alliances still seem far apart.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly warned nations that “everyone will have to give something, or no one will get anything.

European countries — who led calls for a pandemic treaty — want more money invested in pandemic prevention, while African nations want the knowledge and financing to make that work, plus proper access to pandemic “counter-measures” like vaccines and treatments.

The United States wants to ensure all countries share data and samples from emerging outbreaks quickly and transparently, while developing countries are holding out firm for guaranteed equity to stop them getting left behind.

According to the roadmap, a finalised accord on pandemic preparedness, prevention and response would be adopted at the May 27 to June 1 World Health Assembly of the WHO’s 194 member states.

But there is a sense in diplomatic circles that developing nations are growing weary of Western obduracy and extra negotiations in April may be needed to cross the line.

“We all know there remain critical areas where you are yet to reach consensus,” Tedros told the final negotiations round.

“You agree on what you are trying to achieve… now you need to agree on how to achieve these objectives.

“It’s mission-critical for humanity that you do,” he warned.

“We cannot allow the cycle of panic and neglect to repeat.”

Source: Healthworld

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