Leaders from 23 countries, the EU and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday backed a push for a new global treaty to better prepare the world to tackle future pandemics.
The call came in an op-ed published internationally that was signed off by leaders from five continents, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
“We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” their joint call said. “Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level.”
The leaders say that countries must now “be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly co-ordinated fashion”.
A new treaty would help to establish better systems for alerting the world about potential pandemics, they say, while also improving the sharing of data and distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment.
“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when,” they wrote. “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”
The letter adds: “At a time when Covid-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful co-operation that extends beyond this crisis.”
The push to bolster common efforts comes as the world struggles to combine forces to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed almost three million people worldwide.
The spread of the virus has seen blame traded between capitals and accusations that rich nations have hoarded vaccines as economies around the globe have been battered.
The treaty – first proposed by European Union chief Charles Michel at the United Nations last year – would likely be the focus of major international wrangling.
Michel and WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are to hold a press conference on Tuesday on the proposal.
Leaders from key world powers including the US, China, Russia and Japan were not among the signatories.
But those who did put their names to the plan said they were “committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics.”
They wrote: “We must be guided by solidarity, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness and equity.”