World Health Organization (WHO) members have agreed to create an international treaty governing future pandemic prevention and response as they meet in Geneva this week.
The draft resolution kick-starting the treaty process was secured during talks over the weekend and is now expected to be formalized during a three-day members meeting in Geneva starting Monday.
If formalized, the resolution would pave the way to establishing an intergovernmental body tasked with drafting and negotiating the accord, which could be ready by May 2024. The agreement would focus on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
It is expected to cover issues including sharing data on genome sequences of any emerging viruses, as well as any potential vaccines and drugs arising from their research.
"Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in the global architecture for pandemic preparedness and response," WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the World Health Assembly - the WHO's decision-making body consisting of all 194 member states - on Monday.
"Voluntary mechanisms have not solved these challenges," he said, adding that "a legally binding agreement between nations" would be "the best way" to address crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WHO director-general also expressed his hope that the future accord would be able to provide "better governance" and "better financing" for global health security.
The upcoming decision is a result of a compromise between two groups of WHO member states. The EU together with the UK advocated for a legally-binding treaty, while the US, Brazil and India among others were reluctant to support this idea. Eventually, the groups managed to find a satisfactory solution, a European diplomat told Reuters on Sunday.