The member states of the World Health Organization have reached a tentative consensus to negotiate a future agreement on the prevention of pandemics, reducing the differences between the parties led by the European Union and USAdiplomats said Sunday.
The draft resolution, prepared in negotiations over the weekend, will be presented for adoption to the Ministers of Health at the special three-day assembly of the WHO which starts on Monday, they said.
The diplomatic breakthrough came amid growing international concern over the Omicron variant of coronavrius, first detected in South Africa this month, and which is spreading around the world.
A global agreement to strengthen prevention and responses to pandemics, expected to be ready in May 2024, would cover topics such as the exchange of data and genome sequences of emerging viruses, and any potential vaccines and drugs derived from research.
“This decision, to establish a negotiating body on a future pandemic agreement, may be just the beginning, but the flexibility shown and the breadth of support bodes well for the efforts to come,” he said. Simon Manley, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said in a statement.
Britain, along with the EU and some 70 other countries, had pushed for a legally binding treaty. The United States, backed by states like Brazil and India, was reluctant to commit to a binding treaty, diplomats said last week.
“There is agreement on a text that for us is very satisfactory,” said a European diplomat. “It also gives an outlet for the Americans, who are clearly united.”
Another diplomat said: “It is a good result … There was enormous willingness to achieve a common language.”
The draft resolution was posted on the WHO website.
More than 260.77 million people have been reported to have been infected by the coronavirus and 5.45 million have died since the virus emerged. SARS-CoV-2 in China in December 2019. WHO says China has yet to share some of its early data that could help identify the origin of the virus.