WHO Agrees to Study Major Reforms, Meet Again on Pandemic Treaty

Michael Ryan, executive director at the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Getty)

The World Health Organization, battling to coordinate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, agreed on Monday to study recommendations for ambitious reforms made by independent experts to strengthen the

Under the resolution put forward by the European Union, and adopted by consensus, member states are to be firmly in the driver's seat of the reforms, which follow criticisms of the global handling of the crisis.

The new virus has infected more than 170 million people and killed nearly 3.7 million, according to a Reuters tally of official national figures.

Health ministers from WHO's 194 member states will also meet from Nov. 29 to decide whether to launch negotiations on an international treaty aimed at boosting defences against any future pandemic.

"We really do welcome the recommendations within the resolutions and also the decision to take this forward to an international agreement or framework convention on preparedness and response for pandemics," WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan told its annual ministerial assembly.

The decisions, approved in committee, are due to be formally adopted in plenary later on Monday, the last day of its week-long ministerial assembly which WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is scheduled to address.

One panel, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former president of Liberia, said that a new global system should be set up to respond faster to disease outbreaks to help ensure no future virus causes a pandemic as devastating as COVID-19.

The experts, who found crucial failures in the global response in early 2020, said that the WHO should be given the power to send investigators swiftly to chase down new disease outbreaks, and to publish their full findings without delay.

"The world was hit by this virus unprepared. And if another virus emerged tomorrow this would be still be the case," Björn Kümmel, deputy head of the global health division at Germany's federal health ministry, told the WHO talks last week.

"A green light for this treaty process is the greatest commitment to learn from this crisis that this Assembly could
have sent out. It the most effective way to make sure that the global health crisis becomes the final one," he said.