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During late 2021, national delegations are, or have, met at the United Nations General Assembly, the G20, and, most importantly, the Special Session of the World Health Assembly in November to determine whether the world needs a new international agreement to address pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. The current international agreement, the International Health Regulations (2005), failed to work effectively – SARS-CoV-2 was not detected sufficiently early, relevant information was not shared efficiently, and the global response has not been coordinated. Even the most basic investigations were inadequate such as to discover the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Current proposals focus on the possibility of a soft law international instrument adopted through the World Health Organization, or a binding treaty formed under the United Nations or WHO. One bold possibility is to negotiate a pandemic treaty.

This article analyzes the failures in international agreements and international institutions leading up to the declaration of a global pandemic by WHO on March 11, 2020, and the declaration, nearly a year later, about the need for a new international agreement. It analyzes the possible legal routes that such a new agreement may navigate, and, regardless of form, articulates the most important components of a new international agreement or treaty.

Publication Citation

The Journal of the American Medical Association, published online September 15, 2021, at 1-2.