Pandemic Action Network Statement on a New World Bank Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response

Statement by Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds on the decision by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors to establish a new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response: 

“Today’s decision by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors to establish a new global pandemic fund is an important step forward to heed the hard lessons of COVID-19 and make the world safer from pandemics. The fund offers the potential to marshal significant new financing to help prevent such a deadly and costly crisis from happening again. As the fund moves from concept to reality, global leaders should seize this opportunity to ensure it is catalytic, inclusive, and accountable. 

“The COVID crisis has shown us that pandemic prevention and preparedness is in everyone’s interest, and it should be everyone’s business. The US$1.1 billion pledged to the fund thus far is still a fraction of the estimated US$10 billion annually that global health and finance experts agree is urgently needed to bolster the world’s pandemic defenses. We urge more governments, philanthropies, and other funders to seize this moment to pandemic proof our collective future by stepping up and investing in this new fund.” 

Falling Short: Pandemic Action Network Statement on the 2022 G7 Leaders’ Summit

G7 Leaders fell far short of what is needed to finish the job on COVID-19 and prevent the next pandemic. Leaders are facing compounding and intertwined crises, but this is no time to deprioritize health security, which is fundamental to addressing virtually every other crisis facing humanity. This year’s G7 Leaders’ Summit represents a missed opportunity to take decisive action and fundamentally shift the G7’s record on pandemic preparedness and response.   Instead, we saw more of the “same strategy but different day” cycle of rearranging recommendations and commitments.

On finance, G7 Leaders collectively failed to deliver adequate financing to fund the provision of tests and treatments and delivery of vaccines still needed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While we are pleased that the U.K. joined other G7 countries by pledging funding for the emerging global Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response fund at the World Bank, we need to hear that founding partners are committed to an inclusive, representative future fund which will include LMICs, communities, and civil society in its governance from the outset as well as equity in its decision-making. Overall, we need to see a commitment to investing in these ongoing priorities by growing the global pool of funding available for pandemic preparedness and response.

On governance, leaders also missed an opportunity to elevate leadership on pandemic preparedness and response by endorsing the creation of a Global Health Threats Council — as proposed by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — and laying the groundwork for a broader coalition of countries and leaders. A political mechanism of this kind is essential to sustain action and investment across countries and advance ambitious proposals, such as those described in the G7’s Pact for Pandemic Readiness

As the G7 focuses on the world’s stability with commitments on climate and food security, proactively preparing for pandemics must be a part of that mix. These existential threats are interconnected. Accelerating climate change means the world is more likely to experience future outbreaks with more regularity. Whether such outbreaks become pandemics or can be quashed in time hinges on the political choices leaders are making right now. And today, the G7 chose complacency and stagnation over progress when it comes to pandemic preparedness.

We urge the G7 to take forward the Pact for Pandemic Readiness and turn it into action with urgency in the remaining six months of this year and beyond. The COVID crisis has laid bare the costs of inaction. We cannot afford to move on without learning the lessons over the last two years — particularly for the most vulnerable and LMIC populations, many of whom still lack access to lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines. 

The current and future G7 presidencies of Germany and Japan must prioritize getting bold pandemic preparedness and COVID-19 response action back on track as a key part of addressing the world’s interlocking crises — they simply cannot afford not to. Click To Tweet

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.

 

Call for G7 Leaders to Take Pandemic Action!

Ahead of this month’s G7 Leaders’ Summit and in the face of multiple global challenges, civil society groups (CSOs) from around the world urge G7 Leaders to take action on pandemics to both align the global response to make COVID-19 a controllable respiratory disease across all countries and step up efforts to prepare the world against the next pandemic threat. 

While the outcomes of the last Global COVID-19 Summit and G7 Ministerial Meetings showed renewed political commitment and a much needed reset to the global response, ending this pandemic still demands further action. As noted in May’s G7 Foreign, Health, and Development Ministers communiqués, the pandemic won’t be over until it is over for all. Echoing their words, nearly 40 CSOs call on G7 Leaders to invest now to end the current crisis and prevent the next, including by addressing poverty and inequality as barriers to ending pandemics and through investment in national health capacity and community systems.

Three priority actions:

  1. Fill the financing gaps to advance the delivery of COVID-19 tools still needed such as tests and treatments, increasing transparency to foster coordination and enhance value for money. 
  2. Advance new, equitable, inclusive, and innovative sources of financing for pandemic preparedness and response, including through the new Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness Fund.
  3. Build on the G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness Concept Note of May 20 to drive support for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to pandemic preparedness.

The CSOs also strongly urge G7 Leaders to capitalize on the opportunity at the G7 Summit to publicly endorse the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s recommendation to establish a Global Health Threats Council and commit to advancing the proposal during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

Read the full letter. If your organization would like to sign on, contact Hanna by June 21.