Leaders from 23 countries, the EU and WHO on Tuesday backed a push for a new global treaty to better prepare the world to tackle future pandemics.
The call came in an op-ed published internationally that was signed off by leaders from five continents, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
“We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” the op-ed said.
“Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level.”
The push to bolster common efforts comes as the planet struggles to combine forces to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed almost 2.8 million people worldwide.
The spread of the virus has seen blame traded between capitals and accusations that rich nations have hoarded vaccines as economies around the globe have been battered.
“Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion,” the leaders said.
“At a time when COVID-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis.”
The treaty – first proposed by European Union Chief Charles Michel at the United Nations last year – would likely be the focus of major international wrangling.
Michel and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are to hold a press conference on Tuesday on the proposal.
Leaders from key world powers including the United States, China, Russia and Japan were not among the signatories.
But those who did put their names to the plan said they were “committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics.”
“We must be guided by solidarity, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness and equity,” they wrote.