(Bloomberg) -- World Health Organization member countries voted to start drafting an international agreement to help avoid future pandemics as more cases of the new omicron strain of Covid-19 popped up around the world.
The WHO’s members approved a proposal Wednesday that set a deadline of 2024 to try to implement such a measure. They didn’t resolve the biggest disagreement, however: whether the accord should be a legally-binding treaty.
The coronavirus “has shone a light on the many flaws in the global system to protect people from pandemics,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told member countries. He chided “‘me-first’ approaches that stymie the global solidarity needed to deal with a global threat.”
Reluctance from some countries, including the U.S. and Russia, has delayed progress on the idea. The proposal approved Wednesday calls for a start to drafting the treaty next year and a goal of voting on an agreement in 2024.
The proposal also calls for increasing the contributions of WHO member states to 50% of the base program budget, which Tedros said would be a “game changer.”
Negotiating such international deals takes time. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control came into force in 2005, for instance, a decade after the idea was proposed.
The world hasn’t moved swiftly enough to make a new plan for pandemics, according to former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who headed an independent panel that criticized the response to the coronavirus.
The international system, they concluded, remains unfit to avoid another disease from spiraling into one matching Covid-19.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.