•This would be the world’s second treaty focused on health, after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, enacted in 2005.
•Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta first mooted the treaty alongside 24 other world leaders in March 2021, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Kenya is among countries taking part in negotiations for a global treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
This would be the world’s second treaty focused on health, after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, enacted in 2005.
The new accord aims to protect nations from future pandemic emergencies and ensure equitable distribution of lifesaving medical supplies.
It aims to prevent a situation where rich countries hoarded nearly all Covid-19 vaccines and only began to release them when they were about to expire.
The World Health Organization said the latest round of negotiations ended on Friday during the weeklong fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which includes WHO’s 194 countries.
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta first mooted the treaty alongside 24 other world leaders in March 2021, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Negotiations on the draft will continue over the next year, according to a timetable by the World Health Assembly.
The goal is to have a new treaty for countries to consider during the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024.
INB bureau co-chair Precious Matsoso of South Africa, said, “The efforts this week, by countries from around the world, was a critical step in ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the Covid-19 pandemic response, including in sharing life-saving vaccines, provision of information and development of local capacities.”
WHO member states will continue negotiations of the zero draft of the pandemic accord at the INB’s next meeting, to be held next month, with a view to collecting all inputs necessary to develop the first draft.
Roland Driece, another co-chair of the INB Bureau, from the Netherlands, said, “The start of discussions of concrete language for the WHO pandemic accord sends a clear signal that countries of the world want to work together for a safer, healthier future where we are better prepared for, and able to prevent future pandemic threats, and respond to them effectively and equitably.”
Last year, then Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said Kenya supports the new treaty.
He said strengthening the WHO to better deal with Covid-19 and other global pandemics should be at the heart of the response.
“The world must work like a single army defending ourselves against a common enemy with each member state being the other’s keeper.
"A silo mentality and kneejerk reactions will neither be sustainable nor effective,” he told delegates at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly last year.
He said the treaty should ensure equitable access and distribution of medical and other countermeasures, global coordination and funding for research and development.
Other areas to be covered are establishing mechanisms for timely sharing of information and technologies. In parallel with the pandemic accord negotiations, governments are also discussing more than 300 amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) in an effort to ensure greater equity in the global response to public health emergencies.
Part of the goal is to stop unnecessary trade, travel, and other barriers hampering the ability of member states to mount effective preventive and responsive measures. Governments have been working to ensure consistency and alignment across the INB and IHR processes.
The proposed IHR amendments will also be presented to the World Health Assembly in 2024, and will together, with a future pandemic accord, provide a comprehensive, complementary, and synergistic set of global health agreements.