Inside Geneva: what became of the pandemic treaty?

Inside Geneva has been at the World Health Assembly over the last week to find out what lessons have been learned from Covid-19 now that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global health emergency over – even if the pandemic isn’t. 

This content was published on May 30, 2023 - 09:00

“Every single country is vulnerable to pandemics. Every single country can have its economy, its society fundamentally undermined by a pandemic. We know this,” said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

This is the why WHO member states have been working on a pandemic treaty. The hope is that such a treaty will help the world cope with the next pandemic better. A key issue is fair access to vaccines and treatments.

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Barbara Stocking, who chairs the panel for a global public health convention advising the WHO, added: “On medicines and so on, I think this is the most difficult issue to be handling. I hope most countries are signed up to the view that there should be equity. I don’t think developing countries will sign up to any treaty, when they don’t see that there are plans to get much nearer to equity.”

Can vaccine and drug companies be persuaded to be generous? 

Thomas Cueni, Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) said: “You cannot coerce know-how sharing, because either you’re willing to share your wisdom with me or you’re not. Intellectual Property (IP) waivers, which mean ignoring patents, would actually be a huge barrier.”

Transparency and rapid information sharing are on the agenda too. Inside Geneva podcast host Imogen Foulkes asked: “We still don’t know exactly how and where and from what Covid-19 came. Will we find that out do you think? Is the investigation still going on?”

Maria van Kerkhove, who is the technical lead for the Covid-19 response at the WHO, concluded: “We’re certainly going to do everything we can to figure out how this pandemic began. And it does depend on collaboration, scientific collaboration, collaboration from member states, sharing of information, sharing data, and we need more collaboration from China, we’ve been very vocal about that."

For more insights and discussions from Switzerland's international city, subscribe to Inside Geneva on Apple PodcastsExternal linkSpotifyExternal link, or wherever you get your podcasts. And subscribe to our newsletter to get all the International Geneva news and views from Imogen Foulkes in your inbox:

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For more audio content from SWI, explore The Swiss Connection, a podcast with Swiss stories for the world.

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