Statement by Former Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Right Honourable Helen Clark
We are alarmed that rather than applying the well-documented lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, the G20 has buried its head in the sand with many words, another task force, and little action.
It would be an understatement to say that the decision of G20 Leaders meeting in Rome to respond to 22 months of the COVID-19 crisis by setting up a Health and Finance Minister Task Force, with no money behind it, is deeply disappointing.
The G20 has ignored its own High Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which showed why up to US$15 billion a year is needed in pandemic preparedness measures.
As well, the G20 failed to support specific and urgent action to redistribute vaccine doses around the world. Without such action now, eighty countries are on track to miss the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population by the end of December this year.
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was clear that pandemics are much more than health issues, and that there is a need for top level government leadership at the global level. This would avoid repetitions of the “lost months” of early 2020 which saw a local outbreak of COVID-19 become a raging global pandemic with devastating health, social and economic impacts.
We called for a Global Health Threats Council endorsed by a United Nations General Assembly resolution to lead the way forward. We remain optimistic that the General Assembly will use our Panel’s recommendations as a platform for reform, as the UN Secretary-General has urged. We consider action at the level of the UN preferable to the G20 attempting to co-ordinate pandemic preparedness and response, because the UN is both legitimate and inclusive in its composition.
We reiterate our call for global leadership of a nature and urgency appropriate to the scale of a crisis that has already killed a documented five million people. The next pandemic could be more deadly than the current one. History will rightly be a harsh judge of those leaders who have failed to take the steps necessary to support a revamped global governance architecture and funding mechanism capable of helping the world rise to higher standards of pandemic preparedness and response.