Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Helen Clark open letter to leaders and decision-makers responsible for the Political Declaration to be agreed for the 20 September UNGA High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response

 Express grave concern the opportunity is being wasted

9 July 2023

We write, with bluntness and urgency, as we are gravely concerned that the opportunity presented by the High-Level Meeting and the expected Political Declaration on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response is being squandered.

The current draft of the political declaration, to be the focus of consultations on July 10 and 11, does not express the commitments required of Heads of State and Government to transform the international system of pandemic preparedness and response. Instead, it reads as a health resolution.

We have been clear and consistent in our recommendations regarding governance, equitable access to countermeasures, preparedness and surge finance, the need for clear rules and roles, and for a strong World Health Organization. We are committed to principles of equity, inclusion, and regional resilience. Our recommendations are intended to ensure that all regions are at the decision-making table and fully benefit from a transformed system. 

A key recommendation is to secure sustained highest-level political leadership on pandemic preparedness and response between and during health crises. This is required to ensure protection to health, societies and economies, and to stop outbreaks from becoming pandemics.

Neglecting to invest in multisectoral pandemic preparedness left the door open to COVID-19, which now accounts for an estimated 24 million excess deaths[1] and enduring social and economic consequences. 

We are concerned that if Member States only tinker with the language of the draft political declaration and do not request a substantive shift in political ambition befitting the UN General Assembly, the efforts to agree the declaration will be wasted.  

We recognize the importance of the ongoing processes in Geneva.  Yet, much as we all want the pandemic accord to succeed, this is not guaranteed.   

The UNGA High-Level Meeting’s Political Declaration offers a one-time and historic opportunity to commit to lasting and transformative change to pandemic preparedness and response. We call on leaders and decision-makers to make this moment count.

Yours sincerely,

Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf                                   The Right Honourable Helen Clark

Co-Chairs of the former Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response

[1] The Economist. The pandemic’s true death toll, as of 9 July 2023.


For more information: 

Read the Road Map: bit.ly/RMprotect

More about The Independent Panel: The former Co-Chairs led  The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. together with 11 distinguished panelists. They spent eight months rigorously reviewing various dimensions of the pandemic. In May 2021 the Co-Chairs submitted their evidence-based landmark report entitled COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic to the World Health Assembly. They made recommendations which, taken as a package, could transform the international system in a way that could make it the last pandemic of such devastation.The Independent Panel was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General in response to the World Health Assembly resolution 73.1 issued in May 2020.  

The recommendations of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response in its report, COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic, have helped to lay the groundwork for ongoing reforms to the international system. Former Independent Panel Co-Chairs and members continue to advocate for implementation of the full package of recommendations due to concerns about the failure to implement recommendations of past high-level reviews of major outbreaks. Their interest is to see a fit-for-purpose, transformed, and effective international system for pandemic preparedness and response. The former Co-Chairs and members continue to do this work in their own time because of the serious implications of lack of transformative change being made. 

Contact: Christine McNab in Toronto, Canada:  +1 416 986-2068; email: ChristineMcNab@gmail.com 

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