Council gives green light to start negotiations on international pandemic treaty

(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)

The Council adopted a decision to authorise the opening of negotiations for an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The decision also clears the way for negotiating complementary amendments to the International Health Regulations.

“COVID-19 has revealed the importance of international cooperation to fight global threats to people’s health. This new international instrument is therefore essential to allow us to respond better in case another pandemic strikes. The international community needs to come together to ensure equitable access to vaccines and therapeutics, guarantee timely sharing of data and information and address the links between human, animal and environmental health”. – Olivier Véran, Minister for Solidarity and Health

The decision authorises the Commission, for matters falling within Union competence, to negotiate an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The negotiating directives, annexed to the decision, outline the objectives and principles of the agreement. The negotiating directives can be revised and further developed as appropriate depending on the evolution of the negotiations.

Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 illustrated the need for enhanced preparedness and closer cooperation at global level. Improved collaboration between research centers around the globe and better coordination of international funding could improve monitoring of risks and knowledge-sharing about new infectious deseases. Global coordination of stockpiling could ensure countries have access to essential supplies. A pandemic agreement could also lead to better response mechanisms and tackle inequities in access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics.

Background

On 1 December 2021, the members of the World Health Organization (WHO) reached consensus to start the process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The proposal for an international treaty on pandemics was first announced by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2020. This call for an international treaty on pandemics was also highlighted by the G7 leaders in their statement on 19 February 2021.

At the European Council of 25 February 2021 EU leaders underlined the need for global multilateral cooperation to adress current and future health threats and agreed to work on an international treaty on pandemics within the WHO framework and to advance global health security.

Next steps

Following the decision of 1 December at the World Health Assembly, the first meeting of an intergovernmental negotiating body took place on 24 February 2022 to agree on ways of working and timelines. It will meet again by 1 August 2022 to discuss progress on a working draft. It will then deliver a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023, with the aim to adopt the instrument by 2024.

An international treaty on pandemic prevention and preparedness

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