GENEVA (NEWSnet/AP) — World Health Organization opened its annual meeting Monday with government ministers and other envoys hoping to reinforce global preparedness for pandemics.

The most ambitious project, to adopt a pandemic “treaty,” has been shelved after more than two years of work failed to produce a draft that nations could embrace.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general for WHO, insists it is not a failure. Ghebreyesus acknowledged an “immense” task faced by negotiators on a “very ambitious timeline,” alluding to the many years typically required for UN nations to reach global treaties.

“Of course, we all wish that we had been able to reach a consensus on the agreement in time for this health assembly and cross the finish line," Tedros said. “But I remain confident that you still will, because where there is a will, there is a way.”

The basic premise of the treaty proposal is that pathogens that have no regard for national borders require a united response from all countries. Health ministers will have to overcome deep-set differences, including how to share information on emerging pathogens and scarce resources, such as vaccines and masks, when demand dictates.

Other participants at the conference, including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressed the gathering of 194 member states.

Guterres, speaking by video, called the pandemic accord a “once-in-a-generation opportunity" to make sure the global health systems respond faster and more equitably in the next outbreak.

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