The proposal for a global treaty specifically addressing pandemic preparedness and response was first put forth by the President of the European Council in December 2020. It was subsequently supported by 26 heads of state and government, as well as the WHO Director-General in March 2021. The leaders stated in a joint commentary that “the main goal of this treaty would be to foster an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics.” If eventually concluded, this would become the second global health treaty adopted under the auspices of WHO, following the adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003. The proposal raises a number of interrelated questions regarding form, content and process. WHO Member States will discuss a spectrum of options regarding form, from a relatively detailed ‘treaty’ or a framework convention, from a non-binding to legally-binding instrument (or mix of binding and non-binding elements). Discussions regarding its content touch upon the range and depth of issues that should be within its scope. Also under debate is the question of how any eventual instrument will relate to the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) in terms of subject matter, legal and institutional arrangements. Finally, discussions are ongoing regarding process, for example, whether such an instrument should be negotiated under the auspices of the WHO or another intergovernmental organization, and what should be the roles of states and non-state actors such as civil society, experts and the private sector.
At the World Health Assembly special session in November 2021, the Member States discussed “the benefits of developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response” and established an International Negotiating Body (INB) tasked with drafting and negotiating such an instrument. The INB held its first meeting in February 2022 and will meet periodically to continue discussions on identifying the substantive elements of the instrument and drafting the final text to be presented to the 2024 World Health Assembly. The next official meeting of the INB is from 6-8 June 2022, and the INB will hold public hearings in April and June of this year.
The 74th World Health Assembly also established a Member State Working Group (WGPR) to report to the special session of the WHA with its findings, with a bureau comprised of one country from each of the six WHO regions: Botswana, France, Indonesia, Iraq, Singapore and the United States. The WGPR has held several sessions, focusing their discussions on strengthening of the International Health Regulation (2005), equity, and the governance of WHO’s work on pandemic preparedness and response. The Bureau of the WGPR is preparing a final report to present to the 75th World Health Assembly.
The Global Health Centre has organized briefings and published a series of articles, working papers and briefing materials on the main issues revolving around the proposed pandemic treaty, available on this page. The treaty proposal has also spurred a range of comments and analysis, available below, with updates to be added as new materials become available.