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Tensions Rise in Pandemic Accord Talks as Deadline Nears

Geneva (AFP) – As the final round of negotiations on a groundbreaking pandemic accord enters its last week, countries find themselves at odds over strategies to handle future global health crises.

With the aim of ensuring readiness for future pandemics or ideally preventing them altogether, nations are in a race against time to finalize an agreement. Prompted by the devastating impact of Covid-19, countries came together in December 2021 to establish a framework of binding commitments to prevent a similar crisis from occurring again.

As the discussions head towards a climax after two years of talks, significant disagreements still exist on the extent to which countries are willing to commit. The ninth and final round of negotiations, which began on March 18, has seen intense discussions extended into late hours.

While all parties express a desire to reach an agreement, significant differences persist between various factions. Key contentious issues include the allocation of resources for pandemic prevention, equitable distribution of knowledge and financing, transparency in sharing data on emerging outbreaks, and technology transfer to less developed nations.

While the roadmap points to finalization of the accord at the World Health Assembly in May-June, there are concerns that some developing nations are growing impatient with the lack of progress. Additional negotiations in April might be necessary to bridge the gaps.

The success or failure in responding to future pandemics could hinge on the cooperation of the pharmaceutical industry in developing vaccines and treatments, as well as ensuring fair distribution. Stakeholders emphasize that any agreement should be voluntary and mutually agreed upon for effective implementation.

Amidst concerns raised by NGOs regarding the current direction of the agreement text, WHO officials emphasize the crucial importance of reaching a meaningful treaty to safeguard future generations.

The outcome of these negotiations has far-reaching implications, as emphasized by WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan, stating that the treaty being developed will have a tangible impact on saving lives and shaping the global response to health crises.

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