Following the first-ever head-of-state summit on pandemic preparedness at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly today, leaders approved a political declaration that spells out steps to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.
The negotiations were led by Ambassadors Gilad Erdan of Israel and Omar Hilale of Morocco and approved by Dennis Francis, a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, who is serving as president of the UN General Assembly.
Work on Pandemic Accord
Among several measures, the declaration recognizes the need for member states to finish work on a Pandemic Accord, a legal instrument that would be used to ensure that countries are better prepared to prevent and respond to future pandemics.
Work on the Pandemic Accord, designed to ease response problems laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been under way since February 2022, and a final proposal is due in May 2024.
Today's pandemic declaration also covers population sustainable and equitable access to medical countermeasures, steps to address misinformation, protect health systems, strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO), and boost the healthcare workforce and surveillance efforts.
In a statement, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, welcomed the pandemic preparedness declaration and called it a "historic milestone."
"The lived experience of people who suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic must be at the forefront of our minds going forward in order to realize the clear direction provided by world leaders," he said. "The devastating impacts of COVID-19 demonstrated why the world needs a more collaborative, cohesive and equitable approach to preventing, preparing for, and responding to pandemics."
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, also welcomed today's adoption of the political declaration and said it will help sustain political commitment toward ensuring that the world is better prepared for the future.
David Marlow, Gavi's chief executive officer, said in a statement that the sad fact is that there will be future pandemics. "The only question that remains is—will we be better prepared next time? With this declaration, countries have taken an important step towards breaking the panic-neglect cycle and crafting a global framework to support future response," he added.