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Why Is it Urgent to Reach an Agreement on Pandemics? A Proposal for a European Position

Series | Policy Briefs #58


[This document is one of a series of discussion notes addressing fundamental questions about the global health. Its purpose is to transfer scientific knowledge to the public conversation and decision-making process. The papers are based on the best information available and may be updated as new information comes to light.]


After two years of negotiations, only a few weeks remain before a multilateral treaty or agreement on pandemics is to be submitted to the World Health Assembly. Negotiations have, at a late stage, entered a perilous holding pattern characterised by a lack of progress that threatens to derail the best hopes for success. The negotiators for the Global North are influenced by a pharmaceutical industry that openly opposes any threat—real or perceived—to its profits.

Will an international instrument capable of ensuring the preparedness of all countries for future pandemics be adopted? Or, better still, will it be able to prevent them before they start?

This paper, written by Laura Agúndez, Gonzalo Fanjul and Antoni Plasència, analyses why the treaty is important, what the key issues are in the negotiation process and why Spain and the rest of the EU–which is negotiating on behalf of the Member States–must make every effort to reach an agreement, recognising the valuable lessons learned during COVID-19 and the needs of low- and middle-income countries.

This is a just aspiration but—and this is the most important thing—it is also the only option open to us if we want to avoid or mitigate the kind of catastrophes that will be caused by future pandemics. There is no plan B.