Developing an Innovative Treaty to Advance Global Health Security

Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (Forthcoming)


The World Health Assembly will be holding an unprecedented second meeting this year in November, with only a single item on the agenda – the development of a new pandemic treaty. This pandemic treaty provides a path to develop international legal obligations, with the World Health Organization (WHO) overseeing the treaty. Despite strong international political support for such a treaty, there has been little examination of its potential scope, substance, and legal process.

This column explores the potential processes for, and content of, a prospective pandemic treaty, offering guidance on its key elements and legal grounding. Recognizing stark failures in global governance during the COVID-19 pandemic, this new treaty is intended to clarify state obligations to prevent, detect, and respond to pandemic threats and to strengthen WHO powers. The treaty, therefore, should develop strong norms, governance, and compliance mechanisms needed to prepare for novel outbreaks with pandemic potential.

Note: Funding: This manuscript was developed without funding.

Declaration of Interests: Dame Barbara Stocking is chair and Lawrence O. Gostin is a member of the independent Panel for a Global Health Convention (GPHC). Prof. Gostin is also Director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. This column does not necessarily represent the views of either the GPHC or WHO. In addition, Professor Lawrence O. Gostin has disclosed that there are no conflicts with a paper he co-authored.