Need to strengthen pandemic prevention: Wildlife Conservation Society

In a consensus decision aimed at protecting the world from future infectious disease crises, the decision to convene a special session of the World Health Assembly to prepare for a pandemic was welcomed.

The special session agreed to launch a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument within the framework of the constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen the prevention, preparedness and response to the pandemic.

In response to this development, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Vice President of International Policy, Susan Lieberman, said, “WCS strongly supports the World Health Assembly’s announcement to launch a process to form an international pandemic treaty, and we welcome the inclusion of a fair and robust science-based approach to preventing pandemics at source, including actions in commercial wildlife markets, degradation forests and associated biodiversity loss.

“Pandemic preparedness is essential; governments must also agree to significantly reduce the risk of pathogens spreading from animals to humans long before they become local outbreaks, epidemics or global pandemics.

“We need to change our relationship with nature and our uses of wildlife. We need to protect ecosystems with high ecological integrity and function. And we need to stop encroaching on nature and reduce wildlife contact points to limit the consequent pathogenic fallout from wildlife on humans and their livestock.

“The trade and sale of live wild animals for human consumption – both legal and illegal, particularly birds and mammals – poses a significant and unacceptable risk. This trade and associated markets bring together domestic animals and wildlife with their pathogens, facilitating interbreeding, species transmission and the emergence of new viruses. We urge WHO/WHA to address these issues in the new treaty.”

She added: “WCS looks forward to providing technical and scientific assistance to governments as they negotiate this new agreement. Treaties or agreements can be negotiated quickly if there is the political will – and the next virus in waiting makes it clear that the governments of the world must find a solution that is strong, fair and positive in nature to prevent the next pandemic.”

WCS saves wildlife and wild places around the world through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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