File Photo: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during the World Health Assembly in Geneva.AFP
Countries adopted a resolution at a special meeting in Geneva, launching the process that it is hoped should result in a new agreement on pandemics.
The three-day meeting of the World Health Assembly-the WHO's decision-making body comprising all 194 member states-was an unprecedented special session on how to handle the next pandemic.
Countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body "to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response".
The body's first meeting must be no later than March 1 next year to elect two co-chairs and four vice-chairs.
A progress report will be presented at the regular World Health Assembly annual gathering in 2023, with the final outcome presented for consideration at the 2024 WHA.
"We need a game change in our global health architecture, so that the international community can respond to future pandemics collectively, effectively and immediately," said Lotte Knudsen, the EU's ambassador in Geneva, said in a statement.
"Today's decision of the World Health Assembly will therefore make history. The situation and our citizens demand it: we need to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response if we do not want to find ourselves in a similar situation in the future."