The Co-Chairs’ presentation to the G20 Global Health Summit

On 21 May 2021, the Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Right Honourable Helen Clark, made the following presentation to the G20 Global Health Summit, in a recorded video.

Remarks of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 

Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates. Prime Minister Clark and I are most grateful for the opportunity to address the G20 Global Health Summit.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response presented its report last week. We said that the outbreak of COVID-19 became a pandemic because of a myriad of failures, gaps, and delays in preparedness and response. 

Pandemics are an existential threat to humanity and to economies. The G20 has in the past delivered decisive action to tackle financial crisis. Given the up to $22 trillion dollar impact of this pandemic by 2025, we need the G20 to back pandemic preparedness and response becoming a top global priority, and we need leaders to continue to engage on that now and for the long term.

The situation we find ourselves in today has been compounded by geopolitical tensions and nationalism which have weakened the multilateral system which was designed to keep the world safe. Leaders must fix that.

Those gathered at this Summit can show the leadership necessary to ensure that this is the last pandemic to cause the devastation that we are witnessing around us today.

First, we call for immediate actions to stop the current pandemic. The vaccine coverage map today is a glaring picture of inequity.  We ask for at least one billion doses by the 1st September to be committed to the 92 low- and middle-income countries of the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment from those of you who are already on the path to adequate vaccine coverage nationally and have surplus vaccines ordered.

Second, we know that currently demand for vaccines outstrips supply. Even if all the existing doses are redistributed, that won’t be enough.  Manufacturing capacity must be rapidly expanded, supported by agreements for voluntary licensing and knowledge and technology transfer agreements. If that doesn’t happen in the next 3 months, a waiver under TRIPS should come into force with immediate effect. The major vaccine-producing countries among you have the power to make that happen.

Third, the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) faces a $19 billion funding gap. As the grouping of the world’s largest economies, you can close this gap. This must not be seen as an act of charity, but rather as a necessary step to ensure a safer world for all. Many of you here today were involved in establishing ACT-A.  We hope that you will support it evolving into a standing platform for the development and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics based on a global public goods approach. We understand that full funding of ACT-A is being considered by the G20 – this is an essential contribution to ending the pandemic.

Remarks of The Right Honourable Helen Clark

The Independent Panel’s recommendations for a reset of the international system for pandemic preparedness and response flow from our diagnosis of what went wrong. If our recommendations are implemented as a complete package, we believe that the world could avoid the next outbreak of a disease with pandemic potential becoming a global crisis.

WHO is at the heart of the global health system and itsstaff have worked hard to deliver technical support to countries as the pandemic has raged. But WHO has long been underpowered and underfunded by its Member States. It needs more powers to investigate pathogens with pandemic potential, with rapid access to locations, and must be able to publish information about its findings on its own authority – currently it must seek approval from governments to do that.

WHO’s financial independence must be strengthened based on fully unearmarked contributions. Member State fees should be increased to cover two-thirds of its base programme, with an organised replenishment process covering the rest.   The terms of office for the Director-General and for Regional Directors should be limited to one non-renewable term of seven years.

The cost to human life of the failure to invest adequately in pandemic preparedness and response is tragically evident today. Such investment is a global public good.  The Panel recommends a new financing modality based on ability to pay which would finance ongoing preparedness and have a surge capacity in times of crisis. This will not happen without the financial fire power of the G20 economies. We hope that G20 finance ministers can help make this a reality.  It may cost billions, but you will save trillions.

COVID-19 demonstrates that pandemics have impacts well beyond the health sector, requiring whole of government and multisectoral responses from the national to the global levels. We are proposing the creation of a Global Health Threats Council at the level of Heads of State and Government to maintain and mobilise political commitment to preparedness and response on an ongoing basis. We recommend that it be established by the UN General Assembly to give it the maximum possible legitimacy.

The Panel supports the negotiation of a pandemic framework convention that will fill gaps in the current international legal system and clarify responsibilities between States and international organisations.

Our recommendations are presented as a package. Getting that implemented will require political will and leadership. We are calling for a Special Session of the UN General Assembly at leader level to agree on a political declaration setting out a roadmap to transform the system for pandemic preparedness and response.

To Leaders of the G20 and the European Commission we say this: The Panel has provided a solid analysis of what made an outbreak into a pandemic. Its recommendations if implemented will contribute to ending the pandemic and to being prepared for and responding to future pandemic threats. We therefore seek the support of the G20 and the European Commission for taking this reform package ahead. Your support will make a difference for now and for the future.


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