GSL Research Fellow Roojin Habibi and Clare Wenham, an associate professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, published an op-ed piece in The Globe and Mail bringing attention to the continuing negotiations among member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) for a new pandemic treaty to prevent future global health crises like COVID-19. The op-ed warns that these negotiations have become a stage for broader political tensions.
The publication suggests that countries need a new blueprint for global coordination and collaboration to prevent another pandemic, but there is no consensus on what that blueprint should look like. One issue causing tension is the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), which some entities see as the key to achieving health equity among the world’s nations. The principle suggests that those with greater culpability, capability, and less vulnerability must step up and take a more significant role in addressing the shared threat of climate change. The authors argue that these same ideas may apply to pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, as new and emerging pathogens pose a common danger to the world. LMICs with weaker health systems are less capable of detecting these pathogens or mitigating their spread and are also more vulnerable to the impact of an epidemic or pandemic.
Habibi and Wenham urge countries to channel the same historical will to collective action that led to the establishment of the WHO 75 years ago to address the differential challenges of achieving global health equity. With just one year left to negotiate the agreement, countries must work together to build a shared understanding of principles that can guide us toward a safer, healthier, and equitable future. There is a great need for capacity-building for LMICs and collective financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. The op-ed concludes by warning that countries must not miss this opportunity to work together to prevent future pandemics.