World Leaders Call for an International Treaty to Combat Future Pandemics


BRUSSELS — Citing what they call “the biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s,” the leaders of more than two dozen countries, the European Union and the World Health Organization on Tuesday floated an international treaty to protect the world from pandemics.

In a joint article published in numerous newspapers across the globe, the leaders warn that the current coronavirus pandemic will inevitably be followed by others at some point. They outline a treaty meant to provide universal and equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, a suggestion first made in November by Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, the body that represents the leaders of the European Union countries.

The article argues that an international understanding similar to the one that followed World War II and that led to the United Nations is needed to build cross-border cooperation before the next global health crisis upends economies and lives. The current pandemic is “a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe,” the leaders write.

The suggested treaty is an acknowledgment that the current system of international health institutions, symbolized by the relatively powerless W.H.O., an agency of the United Nations, is inadequate to the problem.

Asked if the leaders of China, the United States and Russia had been asked to sign the letter, he said that some leaders had chosen to “opt in.”

“Comment from member states, including the United States and China, was actually positive,” he said. “Next steps will be to involve all countries, and this is normal,” he added. “I don’t want it to be seen as a problem.”

In addition to European countries and the W.H.O., the letter’s signatories included nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

On Tuesday, during a White House news conference, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that although the United States was open to further global collaboration, the country was hesitant to enter into treaty negotiations.

“We do have some concerns primarily about the timing and launching into negotiations for a new treaty right now,” Ms. Psaki said, “and we believe that could divert attention away from substantive issues regarding the response, preparedness for future pandemic threats.”



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