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Health chief hails ‘historic milestone’ in race to avert next pandemic

Adopting a milestone political declaration at the first ever summit on pandemic prevention and response, nations also committed to get back on track to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Making us safer

“[This] is a historic milestone in the urgent drive to make all people of the world safer, and better protected from the devastating impacts of pandemics,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

“I welcome this commitment by world leaders to provide the political support and direction needed so that WHO, governments and all involved can protect people’s health and take concrete steps towards investing in local capacities, ensuring equity and supporting the global emergency health architecture that the world needs.”

The declaration was the result of months of intense negotiations to refine and agree on actions at the national, regional and global levels. It will be submitted to the General Assembly in due course for formal endorsement.

Major points

The political declaration asserts the need for Member States to conclude negotiations on a formal agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, known also as the Pandemic Accord – and make targeted amendments to International Health Regulations – by May next year.

It also calls on States to address the negative physical and mental health impacts of health-related misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and stigmatization, especially on social media platforms.

Instead, it calls for public information campaigns based on science and the facts.

Member States also committed to strengthen health workforces and rapid response capacities, surveillance, and local manufacturing abilities, so countries can meet their own needs to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics.

Learn from mistakes

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recalled that the global response to COVID-19 showcased both human ingenuity and exposed society’s shortcomings.

While rapid test and vaccine development were notable achievements, there were also a lack of preparedness, disproportionate impacts on the world’s poorest and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations.

“We must not repeat the mistakes of the past when the next pandemic strikes – as we know it will – and other health threats emerge,” he said.

Reiterating the importance of the declaration, the UN chief urged countries to support the WHO, including increasing their financial contributions.

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