World leaders adopted a political declaration on Wednesday calling for stronger international collaboration and coordination at the highest political levels to better prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics, as the General Assembly held its first ever high-level meeting on the subject.
On the sidelines of the 78th Session of the United Nations
General Assembly (UNGA78) in New York, the Assembly committed to work to make
access to pandemic-related products — such as vaccines, diagnostics and
therapeutics — timely, sustainable and equitable, while calling on the World
Health Organisation (WHO) to coordinate this with relevant partners.
Describing the adoption of the Political Declaration as
“historic”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged Member States
to take urgent action to implement the commitments made in the document.
He also urged them to reach a solid agreement by May 2024
with a view to drafting a WHO international instrument on prevention,
preparedness and response to pandemics, as well as to amend the 2005
international health regulations.
Assembly President Dennis Francis described the COVID-19
pandemic as “one of the most pressing global challenges of our time”, adding
that its impact on economies and health systems would last for years to come.
“The reality is that we simply lacked preparation and responsiveness,” he
insisted, emphasising the need to prepare for other pandemics.
Concerned by the hoarding of vaccines in rich countries
while the populations of underprivileged ones are left behind, United Nations
Under-Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed called for preventing such a
situation by implementing the recommendations spelled out in the Political
In that document, Member States call in particular for the
promotion of equitable distribution of affordable and quality medicines and
reaffirm the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects
of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which provides flexibilities for the
protection of public health and promotes access to medicines for all,
particularly for developing countries.
Member States also called for strengthening local and
regional vaccines and medicine production, particularly in low- and
middle-income countries, through technology transfer and cooperation with
voluntary patent pools.
Mohammed also called for reform of the international
financial architecture to alleviate the debt burden of developing countries,
which prevents them from achieving universal health coverage. She called for
long-term financing of at least $500 billion annually as part of the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) recovery plan.
She also stressed the importance of fighting misinformation
about vaccines, in particular through a code of conduct on digital platforms.