Published: 16:56, May 4, 2024 | Updated: 17:03, May 4, 2024
WHO chief urges nations to finalize pandemic accord by deadline
By Reuters
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, speaks during an event about expanding health coverage for all, during the IMF-World Bank Group spring meetings at World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, on April 18, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

GENEVA - The head of the World Health Organization on Friday urged countries to agree to an accord to help fight future pandemics as negotiations approach a deadline this month.

The new pact and a series of updates to existing rules on dealing with pandemics are intended to shore up the world's defenses against new pathogens after the COVID-19 pandemic killed millions of people.

Countries are due to finalize negotiations on the accord on May 10, with a view to adopting it at the WHO's annual meeting later this month, but sources involved say that big differences remain.

"Give the people of the world, the people of your countries, the people you represent, a safer future," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Geneva meeting.

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"So I have one simple request: please, get this done, for them," he said. He encouraged countries who did not fully agree with the text to at least refrain from blocking consensus among WHO's 194 member states.

Photo taken on Jan 22, 2020 shows the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

One of the main points of disagreement between wealthy countries and developing states is the vexed issue of sharing drugs and vaccines fairly to avoid a repeat of COVID-era failures.

Some right-wing politicians in countries like the United States and Australia have also criticized the accord, which would be legally binding, arguing that it cedes too much power to a UN agency.

Tedros has strongly refuted this argument, saying the accord would help countries better guard against outbreaks.

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The only time in the organization's 75-year history that the WHO's member countries have been able to agree to a legally binding treaty like the pandemic accord was for a tobacco control treaty in 2003.