WHO's annual assembly opens amid divides over pandemic treaty

Member states of the World Health Organization are discussing global medical and health issues at its annual assembly in Switzerland.

The assembly kicked off in Geneva on Monday, with officials from 194 member states in attendance.

One of the major items on the agenda is revising the International Health Regulations, which provide a framework that defines countries' obligations in handling emergencies that have the potential to cross borders.

The focus is also on whether the meeting could lead to the adoption of a pandemic treaty aimed at strengthening global preparedness for future pandemics.

The idea of a pandemic treaty was floated in light of the divide experienced by countries fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed pact includes measures to support developing countries.

Negotiators tried to reach a deal on a pandemic treaty before the WHO assembly. But they failed to do so, as developing and advanced countries remained split over vaccine distribution and other issues after two years of negotiations.

Officials at the assembly are expected to discuss how to continue with the negotiations in order to pave the way for a possible deal.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he remains confident that member countries will be able to reach a consensus on the accord. He said this is because "where there is a will, there is a way."