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World facing last chance to keep pandemic accord alive

GENEVA: Countries thrashing out a historic agreement on tackling future pandemics must use April to bridge their differences because failure cannot be an option, the negotiations co-chairman told Agence France-Presse.

Nations have spent the last two years drafting an international accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response but remain far apart on crucial issues such as vaccine equity and pathogen surveillance.

The planned final round of negotiations, therefore, missed the target of finishing the accord by Easter to make it ready for adoption by the World Health Organization's 194 member states at their annual assembly starting on May 27.

Countries will instead return to the WHO headquarters in Geneva for a do-or-die extra round of talks from April 29 to May 10.

Roland Driece, who is co-chairing the negotiations, wants nations to use the time between now and then to climb out of their trenches and find compromises.

«We want them to speak with each other and not at each other,» the Dutch health diplomat told AFP.

«That's the biggest challenge we have had: people speaking a lot — they spoke forever — but sometimes it's not speaking with each other, but telling the other what you find important.


»You need to bridge your differences."

The main sticking points include sharing access to emerging pathogens, better monitoring of disease outbreaks, reliable financing, and transferring pandemic-fighting technology to poorer countries.

Sharpening minds ahead of the April-May talks, several countries have raised the specter of another Covid-19, which shredded economies, overturned societies, crippled health systems and killed millions.

Focus and urgency


«Everybody understands that failure is not really an option,» said Driece.

«There's so many things in the world that require political attention: Ukraine, Gaza, climate change. It's our duty to keep the focus and the urgency.»

Driece's Intergovernmental Negotiating Body will draw up a streamlined new draft text by April 18, honing in on areas of common ground.

One European ambassador, frustrated by the process, said success would depend on getting a concise, convergence-oriented document to