October 29, 2021
Your Excellencies, thank you for inviting me to speak today at this important meeting of Ministers of Health and Finance.
For almost two years the world has struggled to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, as the virus continues to spread, the glaring problem is vaccine injustice. There are booster shots for those in wealthy countries, while only one in twenty people have received even one shot in the poorest. This gulf pulls the world apart.
We, as an Independent Panel, released our report in May this year. A central diagnosis was that there was no system capable of responding to the breadth and depth of the COVID pandemic. The world could not at once adjust public health and economic responses; balance domestic needs with global obligations; direct resources to where they were most needed; and protect the most vulnerable.
Your coordination as health and finance ministers is a critical part of repairing this. We are also all aware that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. Given the multiple sectors involved in and affected by the pandemic, accountability for pandemic preparedness and response belongs with heads of state and government, and to states working together in the United Nations General Assembly.
Our Panel believes that a Global Health Threats Council at the level of Heads of State and Government, flowing from a declaration of the UN General Assembly, would be key to establish and maintain high level and inclusive political leadership for pandemic preparedness and response. This includes an oversight role for pandemic financing. We believe the G20 should nominate a co-chair to such a Global Health Threats Council.
We also called for new financing contributions of approximately ten billion US dollars annually. A new financial intermediary fund for preparedness and response, designed to support existing organisations could be an answer. Contributions to such a fund should be made on an ability to pay basis. They should be considered investments in critical infrastructure. They should not be derived from already stretched ODA budgets.
The G20 represents the world’s major economies, and these must bear a significant part of the burden of financing global public goods. But decisions about pandemic financing cannot be limited to only the most powerful – the consequences of that play out through rampant vaccine inequity today.
A political declaration of the United Nations General Assembly, supporting a leader-level body can bring urgency and coherency to pandemic preparedness and response efforts. These processes can dovetail to give WHO greater power and authority including through establishment of a new legal instrument. I urge you to seize this moment, to make the political decisions to help end this pandemic and mitigate the risk of future health threats.