Thank you to all those who contacted me about proposals for an international pandemic treaty.
The UK Government has joined international partners in calling for a new global settlement to help prepare for future pandemics. This initiative was taken to the World Health Organization (WHO), which in turn established an independent panel to provide an evidenced-based approach to address future health threats.
A resolution at the World Health Assembly Special Session in November 2021, co-sponsored by the UK, approved the formation of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
COVID-19 remains a significant threat: the virus will change and adapt and we must learn to live well with it, as well as being prepared for future pandemics. Climate change and globalisation mean that natural biological threats are becoming more common.
For these reasons, it is my view that pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as a matter of national security. One lesson of the pandemic is that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and that global health is local health, so global co-operation on pandemic preparedness and biological threats needs to be strengthened. I therefore support the principle of a WHO treaty that sets the standard for all countries to contribute to global health security.
Speculation that any future treaty will undermine UK sovereignty and give the WHO powers over national public health measures is unfounded. Indeed, protecting national sovereign rights is a distinct principle in the first draft text, which makes no reference to vaccine mandates, lockdowns or any such draconian policies. Moreover, it states that the implementation of the regulations “shall be with full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons”.
Far from there being a conspiracy, this process is built on the very basis of international co-operation, which is essential for tackling transnational threats.
The process of drafting a new treaty is ongoing and there is at least another year of negotiations to take place. It is a member state-led process and any treaty will require agreement of at least two-thirds of WHO members.