29 November 2021
BORN FREE CALLS FOR WHO PANDEMICS TREATY TO FOCUS ON PREVENTION
“This must include changing our relationship with wild animals, to reduce the risks associated with habitat destruction, collection of animals from the wild, their breeding, production, trade, trafficking, keeping and consumption.”
Born Free is calling for the mandate of any international agreement on pandemics to include a clear focus on pandemic prevention.
At the end of November, the World Health Assembly will meet in Special Session to discuss the merits of developing a convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response, under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, at present the Assembly’s discussions are set to focus on how we prepare for and respond to future pandemics, rather than how to prevent them.
Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said: “Covid-19 has caused the deaths of over 5 million people worldwide, disrupted almost everyone’s lives, and devastated our economies. While it has undoubtedly been the worst pandemic in recent decades, it is by no means the first, and will not be the last; we’re told that there are hundreds of thousands of viruses that exist in animals that have the potential to cross over to people, and that future pandemics could be even more serious.
Image © US Fish and Wildlife Service
“So while it’s good to see countries coming together to discuss the need for collective action in anticipation of future pandemics, any such agreement cannot limit itself to preparing our response, but must also focus on reducing the risk of pathogens spilling over to people in the first place. This must include changing our relationship with wild animals, to reduce the risks associated with habitat destruction, collection of animals from the wild, their breeding, production, trade, trafficking, keeping and consumption.”
To this end, Born Free has joined with partner NGOs in an open call to prioritise pandemic prevention in the Global Pandemics Treaty negotiations. Born Free is also promoting a similar call from the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, of which we are a co-founder and Steering Committee member, which can be found here.
Jones continued: “The world is facing a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a human health crisis. These crises are all interrelated, and to address them we need to re-evaluate our relationship with nature, protect nature and biodiversity, and end the exploitation of wild animals, by adopting a One Heath and One Welfare approach. The proposed Pandemics Treaty has a role to play, but it must recognise that prevention is key to avoiding the kind of devastation and disruption we have seen with Covid-19. Protecting nature and wildlife must be a key area of focus.”