Twenty world leaders call for treaty on pandemics

To build a more robust global health architecture that will protect future generations, the international community should develop "a new international treaty on preparedness and response" to pandemics, some 20 world leaders said in late March.

"The Covid-19 pandemic represents the greatest challenge the global community has faced since the 1940s. At that time, political leaders took stock of the devastation caused by the two world wars and came together to form the multilateral system," wrote the leaders, including the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "

This statement comes shortly after the United Nations report warned that the consequences of this global pandemic would set many countries back a decade in terms of living conditions and health. Unsurprisingly, women and vulnerable and marginalised groups are the first to pay the price.

Warning signs of increasing gender-based violence have already been raised in many countries, as have racial discrimination and hate crimes. Closing schools to prevent the spread of the virus has had several perverse effects: first, the additional burden placed on women, but also the increased risk of sexual violence, pregnancy and early marriage for girls who no longer attend school - a trend widely observed during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Recent UNFPA data reveals that nearly 12 million women lost access to contraception due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, resulting in 1.4 million unwanted pregnancies.

While the consequences of pandemics differ from country to country, it is clear that we need each other to address them. The main objective of this new international treaty would therefore be to foster "a comprehensive and multisectoral approach to building national, regional and global capacity and resilience to future pandemics. "

This call is an invitation to all of us, whether at the global, national, local or individual level, to do our part to prevent pandemics. Genuine international commitments based on collaboration, equity and accountability are key.