A NEW TREATY ON PANDEMICS: SOME KEY ISSUES FROM A GLOBAL SOUTH PERSPECTIVE
Pilot Clinic: Universidad de Buenos Aires, Fall 2021
Beneficiary: The South Centre
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The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has exposed the general fragility of the international health governance system and its asymmetries. The current regulatory status quo failed to prevent foreseeable outbreaks, failed to respond in a timely, proportionate and effective manner, and failed to adequately distribute the social and economic costs of the pandemic. As a matter of fact, the negative social and economic effects of COVID-19 have been more pronounced in the Global South, and especially in the poorest, least developed, and most unequal countries.
Indeed, the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the emergence of several proposals to crystallize improvements on preparedness and response mechanisms, based on the lessons learned over the past two years. For instance, some global leaders have promoted the drafting of a new treaty on pandemics, as a possible way to approach the gaps and shortcomings shown by the still ongoing COVID-19. For the same purpose, others have proposed amending the existing IHR.
It is here argued that even though the IHR could be amended to be strengthened, the recent facts have shown its deficiencies to deal with global health crises as a pandemic. This is so since, among other reasons, the IHR lacks a proper compliance system, countries of the Global South have challenges in compliance that need to be considered, and the IHR restrict the WHO to issuing non-binding recommendations only until a PHEIC is declared. Indeed, the experience of COVID-19 has shown that many States did not comply with the IHR, proving the system’s inadequacy.
If changes to the regulatory status quo do not address its fundamental flaws, the challenges posed by the current pandemic will continue to deepen. In this sense, it is argued that the best way to improve pandemics preparedness and response governance would be a binding convention or agreement in accordance with article 19 of the WHO Constitution.
In view of both the difficulty that negotiations on a possible new treaty will present for States of the Global South and their special needs, this paper aims to contribute by identifying and giving content to certain key issues —though not exhaustive— that should be taken into account by negotiators of a possible new treaty on pandemics or any other instrument on the subject in the future. The selected key issues are addressed through four cross-cutting questions: (i) Why is each issue relevant for the Global South, (ii) where it is currently regulated, (iii) what are the problems it entails, and (iv) how could a new instrument address them.
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