By Martín Hevia and Ximena Benavides
Acknowledging what went wrong during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial to any pandemic lawmaking efforts. Chief among these concerns should be the centrality of human rights to global health security.
Health systems that lack universality and inclusivity will always fall short on disease surveillance, detection, and response during health emergencies, at the risk of not reaching all populations. The risk of exclusion exceeds national borders. Regional and global health governance favor the ‘competition of a few’ over (formal) solidarity, which explains why some of the small number of international collaborative initiatives aiming to reach the poorest countries during the pandemic are falling short.
Nonetheless, human rights remain at the periphery of the global health security conversation and the pandemic treaty debate.
Following the call of dozens of world leaders for a new treaty or another legally binding instrument to strengthen pandemic preparedness and response, the World Health Assembly will convene a special session in November 2021 to consider a new binding agreement that could address key failings in the COVID-19 response, including the insufficient international cooperation to implement the International Health Regulations’ (2005) public health capacities. Such an initiative should also serve as the long-awaited international policy-making window to address our health systems’ deep structural problems.
How can a pandemic treaty positively transform our health systems? In this contribution, we outline four core strategies.