What To Know Before the G7 Leaders’ Summit

The G7 Leaders’ Summit is just around the corner, and — as one of the five priorities of the German Presidency — pandemic preparedness and response is expected to have a central role in the meeting. In Germany’s own words, this year’s program aims “to expand the G7’s pioneering role in the commitment to pandemic prevention and control as well as improving the international health architecture.” While this might be a good omen for relevant agreements and commitments, the G7’s record on pandemics is not consistent and makes many of us wary. So, what do we need to know to understand the landscape and ensure this G7 goes beyond a series of photo ops and warm words?

A bit of historical background… Seven years ago, under the German Presidency as well, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa drove forward similar promises to those on the table in 2022. The 2015 Elmau Declaration contained crucial commitments, including support for the “World Bank to develop a Pandemic Emergency Facility” advanced by the G20 and strengthening of a mechanism for rapid response to pandemics. Side note, the 2015 declaration also includes clear language on “finding a solution to the conflict in Ukraine.” Déjà vu, anyone? We know that over the following years, these commitments lost traction and their implementation lagged. The following declarations — 2016 Ise Shima Declaration, 2017 Taormina Declaration, 2018 Charlevoix Declaration, and the 2019 Biarritz Declaration — progressively erased pandemics off the agenda until it made it back in 2020, this time under an unprecedented global crisis.   

So, what tells us that 2022 could be different? Germany’s G7 leadership this year is a reason for optimism. The country has made significant contributions to the ACT-Accelerator, has supported and raised funds for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism, and also committed financial contributions to CEPI and the forthcoming new Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Fund at the World Bank. Moreover, in preparation for the Summit, Germany has convened high-level officials to discuss pandemics and pave the way for the Leaders’ Summit.

The G7’s preparatory work in May provides some hints and insights about what agreements might be in the making. Here’s a summary of the outcomes and work of the following Ministers’ meetings:

  • Foreign Ministers. They have mainly focused on the G7’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and on addressing gaps in the global vaccination campaign. On May 13, they released an “Action Plan on COVID-19,” which aims to align the group’s response efforts. In its last communiqué, they also noted that they are already working on “planning the ongoing COVID-19 response for 2023” but didn’t share specific details.
  • Health Ministers. Their last communiqué provides an overview of the issues and variables shaping the conversation and shows how the G7 is looking into preventing future pandemics and enhancing the world’s response to pandemic threats. Recently they released a concept note for a “G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness,” which has a strong emphasis on surveillance. It is unclear though if other essential aspects for pandemic preparedness will also be considered by the group and how.  
  • Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. As they are responsible for aligning commitments and funding, their last communiqué helps to understand what are the competing priorities. They expressed support for the establishment of the new Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Fund, hosted by the World Bank, but they clearly stated that a broader group of countries should contribute financially as well. 
  • Development Ministers. This group has discussed the effects of COVID-19, as shown in their last communiqué, and has worked with Health Ministers to accelerate the G7’s response to ending the pandemic globally — putting emphasis on access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics — and increasing countries’ capacities on pandemic preparedness and response. It stands out that their support for expanding access to vaccines, testing, and therapeutics worldwide seems to rely only on voluntary technology transfer and not in more proactive measures. 

What’s missing, and what’s ahead? If after reviewing these different pieces you get a feeling that something is missing, you are not alone. So far, the information proactively disclosed by the German Presidency does not reveal specific actions or preliminary plans. It remains unclear how most of the commitments will be advanced and turn into concrete changes. With the information available up to this point, this next G7 Leaders’ Summit could yield good commitments but the risk of forgetting them in the coming years might be as present as in 2015. As such, the six months following the Leaders’ Summit will be critical to ensuring clear actions and setting the stage for Japan to pick up the G7 leadership baton in 2023.

If you are attending the G7, please let us know! Otherwise, stay in touch on social media.

Shifting the G7’s Record on Pandemics

Something has to change when it comes to global leaders’ response to pandemics. The concern used to be that panic-induced action at the outset of a pandemic turns quickly to neglect once the emergency is over. But COVID-19 brought a new additional concern: the cycle switched to “neglect” while still battling the crisis phase of the pandemic. 

The G7’s own record on pandemics shows the same pattern of panic and neglect. In 2015 — also under the German Presidency — the Ebola epidemic in West Africa brought a long list of commitments that echoes what should have been done to prevent the current crisis: assisting countries in implementing the International Health Regulations, making financing for response and preparedness immediately available, improving WHO’s capabilities, and setting up surveillance networks. Yet, these commitments failed to translate into tangible and sustained action. The devastating experience of the COVID-19 pandemic leaves no doubt that world leaders must break out of this “same strategy but different day” cycle of rearranging recommendations and commitments. At the forthcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit in Schloss Elmau, G7 leaders can either continue with the same approach to pandemics or kickstart a new one that makes falling into neglect simply impossible. What does this mean in practical terms? 

Put pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response in the diary. First and foremost, checking up on progress made on pandemic preparedness and response must be a regular fixture in global leaders’ calendars. Just as transnational threats like climate have led to the creation of the annual COP process to catalyze reduction of carbon emissions, pandemics need methodical political attention — and crucially, action — at the highest level. We need “ever-warm” response and accountability in the same way the COVID-19 pandemic proved the need for ever-warm manufacturing capabilities. 

Make pandemic prevention and preparedness a top political priority. Beyond regular meetings, an adequate response to pandemics needs a political engine with processes that assess risks and review progress systematically. The Independent Panel’s May 2022 report calls for “an inclusive leader-level health threats council that can galvanize political commitment to end the COVID-19 threat” — and we agree. The G7 should put its collective heft behind a critically-needed, broader, and inclusive, Global Health Threats Council of leaders to both convene in a crisis and create the momentum to catalyze the implementation of pandemic prevention and preparedness plans, based on new learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Act with urgency at this year’s UN General Assembly. In line with setting such a political engine, we also need to turn it on as soon as possible. We need the world to be in a dynamic state of readiness, not caught unprepared as it was in 2020. A UN Summit on pandemic preparedness and response in the coming months in New York at the leadership level should be at the top of António Guterres’ to-do list. Such a leadership summit would set a standard and help breathe life into plans to regularly convene on pandemic preparedness and response at the leadership level. 

The very fact that many of the recommendations that came out of the Ebola outbreak are now being actioned or overtaken, shows just how little was done to properly implement the learnings from Ebola in 2015. While we are seeing progress on pandemic preparedness, that progress remains fragile amidst competing crises and inconsistent levels of ambition and commitment from all countries and their leaders. The establishment of the Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Fund at the World Bank — bolstered by the financial commitments of the U.S., EU, Germany, Indonesia, and Wellcome  — will be instrumental but needs more countries to chip in and demand their seat at the table so that everyone contributes, everyone benefits, and everyone decides. Getting broad buy-in to a Fund that pulls away from the typical donor-led cliché will help set this G7 on the path to success, not obscurity. G7 leaders should affirm their commitment to an inclusive approach to the Fund’s governance, and G7 countries that have not yet pledged should use the opportunity of the Summit to do so.

In brief, Germany’s Chancellor and their G7 counterparts need to make sure pandemics are not only high on the agenda on June 26-28, but more importantly, that there is a new political engine — that goes beyond the G7 — to enable the world to banish the cycle of neglect to history. Acknowledging the elusive and unpredictable nature of pandemics, this would set us on track to effectively deal with present uncertainties, future unknowns, and provide the political forum for cooperation that was so desperately needed when nationalism and parochial interests saw countries pull up their drawbridge right at the moment they should have been opening up to coordination and collaboration early in the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a shift worth making, and one that would stand the test of time at the next German G7 Presidency in 2029.

 

G20’s Time to Act: A Sustained and Accelerated Global Response to COVID-19

In advance of the G7 and G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meetings — taking place on April 20, 2022 in Washington, D.C. — 40 civil society organizations from across the world have called on G20 leaders and finance ministers to urgently ensure the global response to COVID-19 is sustained and accelerated. Meeting this goal remains a critical variable for the world’s recovery, security and stability.

Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors are strategically positioned to make the G7 and G20 political commitments a reality by articulating actions and funding. The decisions they reach in these meetings and those scheduled in the coming weeks — ahead of the 2nd Global COVID-19 Summit — will reflect their true commitment to putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing another crisis of such kind and magnitude.

Concretely, this group of organizations has asked all G20 Finance Ministers to consider the following actions:

1. Finance the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness and increase transparency to enhance value for money.

  • Swiftly fund the most urgent needs of low- and middle-income countries so they can deliver national, regional, and global targets on vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, as well as delivery of all COVID-19 tools.

  • Fully fund COVAX’s Pandemic Vaccine Pool and delivery costs for all pandemic countermeasures through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and country levels.

  • Fully fund the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) five-year strategy, so we have a head start in beating future pandemic threats through R&D that is designed to put equitable access at the heart of global pandemic responses.

  • Facilitate increased transparency in the production, pricing, supply, financing, and delivery of pandemic countermeasures to track tools from production to patients.

2. Innovate to deliver new sources of financing for the global COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.

  • Stand up and sustainably finance a new Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness Fund in 2022 to jumpstart financing for country and regional preparedness for pandemic threats toward a target of at least US$10 billion annually. Gaps to focus on can be identified through the Global Health Security Index and country-led processes.

  • High-income countries should urgently deliver the US$100 billion in recycled Special Drawing Rights pledged by the G20 through Multilateral Development Banks and ensure these are leveraged for global health and climate finance without delay.

  • Ministers should also explore other sources of financing beyond Official Development Assistance — including via the Global Public Investment model — prioritizing ending pandemics as vital to the world’s economic and human security and stability. Investment in primary health care systems must be included to prevent and better respond to future pandemic threats.

Amid the pressing issues that the international community faces, we must intensify our work together to accelerate momentum on the global COVID-19 response and ensure comprehensive pandemic preparedness in all countries.

Read the full letter.

Statement — INB Public Hearings for a New International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness & Response

In December 2021, the World Health Assembly (WHA) established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate an international instrument — supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) — to “strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.” In the decision establishing the INB, the WHA also requested the WHO to hold public hearings to inform its work and deliberations.

The first round of those public hearings took place April 12-13, 2022. In response to it, the Africa CSOs Working Group on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, convened by Pandemic Action Network and PATH, submitted the following substantive elements for inclusion in the new instrument:

  • Recognize and protect the role of regional institutions and initiatives in responding to pandemics and epidemics as central in coordination, procurement, and distribution of medical products and tools, and technical support to respective member states. Such regional institutions should work in a coherent manner with global institutions.
  • Establish and protect a global pandemic preparedness fund that involves countries across regions in its design, governance, and financing, with all countries contributing to such a fund, based on their ability to contribute. The fund should support health systems strengthening in geographies with weak health systems and should have a strong accountability mechanism.
  • Elevate and prioritize leadership for future pandemics through, for example, a Global Health Threats Council, with meaningful leadership and representation from low- and middle-income countries. This body’s role will be to map out a strategic response that works for both public and private players in the health space.
  • Prioritize and finance a globally networked surveillance and early-warning system with incentives for countries to share data on and sequence new variants and pathogens.
  • Guarantee equity in access to lifesaving tools: declaring such tools as public goods and; instituting a waiver of intellectual property rights along with immediate hands-on technology transfer for all medical products and tools during a pandemic to ensure the maximum number of lives are saved, prioritizing the most vulnerable communities.