The United States and other countries opposed to the imminent penning of a pandemic treaty have succeeded in delaying discussion, with a World Health Organization draft text published today pushing any decisions to November.
The draft decision, which countries will discuss this week at the World Health Assembly, signals that Washington’s strong opposition ultimately won out after difficult discussions among member countries, aided in part by the reluctance among some other capitals that said they couldn’t discuss a treaty in the midst of the pandemic.
The U.S. opposition was already evidenced by Vice President Kamala Harris last week, when she said that that while the Biden administration understands the intent of a treaty, it “believes that we need to first strengthen our foundation.”
The fresh draft decision has the support of multiple countries, including the EU, U.K., U.S., South Africa and Norway. It states that a working group tasked with “strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies” will assess the benefits of “developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.”
Countries would then consider the group’s report at a special session of the World Health Assembly in November that would focus solely on whether an intergovernmental process should be set up to draft a treaty or whether some other agreement is better. The original proposal would have seen this intergovernmental group begin its work immediately.
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