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WHO Negotiations For Pandemic Treaty Extended Due To Disagreements

Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) failed to reach an agreement on the text of the Pandemic Treaty during the recently concluded ninth round of negotiations of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB).

The Pandemic Treaty is a proposed international instrument on pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response, with a view towards the establishment of an intergovernmental process to draft and negotiate such a “new instrument”.

An additional round of negotiations is set to take place between April 29 and May 10, as both the WHO and its members make a final attempt to meet the original deadline for adopting the document during the World Health Assembly at the end of May.

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Negotiations thus far have been marked by disagreement over provisions aimed at achieving a more equitable distribution of pandemic products and knowledge between countries. While countries from the Global South have insisted on integrating COVID-19 lessons into the new mechanism to promote global solidarity, high-income countries have refused to take a step away from their partnership with large pharmaceutical companies. They have resisted calls for suspension of intellectual property claims on essential products, including vaccines, and have insisted on provisions on pathogen sharing that put low-income countries at a disadvantage.

Disagreements among WHO members have led to numerous additions to the text that the INB Bureau presented for text-based negotiations. Consensus has become the focal point among the INB leadership.

Achieving consensus in this context could mean that the same Global North countries that typically dominate discussions will once again coerce others into compliance. This is true for discussions related to intellectual property as well as for those concerning the strengthening of health systems and the health workforce.

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