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Pandemic Preparedness Cannot Wait

As multilateral institutions debate how to mitigate future disease outbreaks, we can take practical steps to improve upon the innovative mechanisms, including the COVAX facility, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. That requires building a broad coalition of partners ready and willing to implement a coordinated response.

GENEVA – As a firm believer in multilateralism, I was heartened that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a political declaration on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response at its first-ever high-level meeting on the subject in September. It confirms that world leaders recognize the existential threat of pandemics and are committed to breaking the panic-neglect cycle, whereby policymakers pull out all the stops to fight disease outbreaks, only to turn their attention elsewhere once the crisis ends.

The landmark declaration has generated much-needed momentum for a global pandemic treaty, which is currently under development at the World Health Organization. But translating a political commitment into a meaningful agreement requires significant buy-in from WHO member states, and negotiations are sure to be arduous.

As this process unfolds, we must implement practical measures to preserve the knowledge gained during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to improve upon the innovative mechanisms that emerged from it. Any eventual treaty can thus enter into force with many working parts already in place. And, in the meantime, the world will be better prepared for the next infectious-disease emergency.