G20 works on financing preparedness and response to future health challenges

In January 2021, the G20 established a High Level Independent Panel (HLIP) as a means to identify solutions to financing the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response. Without an appropriate funding system, the world may be unable to manage future health threats.

The G20 works on financing preparedness and response to future health challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis, with human, economic and social costs unprecedented in recent history. The crisis highlighted the need for a broad-based global effort to improve prevention, surveillance, preparedness and response to health challenges. The global community’s mind-set should no longer be based on whether a new health crisis may hit, but rather on when this will happen again.

Beside the massive efforts undertaken by the international community to develop and distribute vaccines, test capacity and treatments, and strengthen disease surveillance networks, long-term mechanisms to ensure global health are lacking.

Without an appropriate funding system, the world may be unable to develop an effective and coordinated approach to manage future epidemics. To address this concern, in January 2021, the G20 established a High Level Independent Panel (HLIP) to find solutions designed to finance the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response.

The Panel, proposed by the Italian G20 Presidency, was tasked with assessing the current financing systems and suggesting viable solutions for the longer term.

In particular, the Panel’s members are working to identify the pandemic surveillance and prevention financing gaps and to recommend solutions to address these gaps on a systematic and sustainable basis and optimally leverage resources from the public, private and philanthropic sectors, as well as from International Financial Institutions.

The Panel, co-chaired by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Singapore, and Lawrence Summers, Former United States Treasury Secretary, will build on World Health Organization’s assessment of gaps in pandemic preparedness and on ongoing international initiatives aimed at enhancing global preparedness and response.

In these first months, Panel members have met regularly and are interacting with international institutions and with a range of experts and stakeholders comprising NGOs, development aid agencies, academia, philanthropies, and key private sector actors.

On April 7th, 2021, the Panel provided a first Progress Note to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBGs), who gathered for their second official meeting under the Italian G20 Presidency. This document highlights that a functioning system for financing pandemic prevention, preparedness and response must, first of all, be recognised by the international community as a global public good, as viruses respect no borders. Ensuring a widespread global access is both a scientific and economic need and a commitment to leaving no one behind.

Funding so far has been grossly inadequate, fragmented, overly reliant on ad-hoc contributions and not reactive enough. There is now a major opportunity to chart a course for enhanced financing that transforms our ability to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics. In order to do so, it would be crucial to assure more reliable, continuous financing during ‘peacetime’, as well as the capacity to mobilize funds swiftly to meet the surge in needs during a pandemic.

The members also recognised the key role robust and inclusive national healthcare systems can play, especially in Low-Income Countries and Lower-Middle Income Countries. Strengthening national systems to prepare for future pandemics also serves ongoing public health needs, tackling emerging infectious diseases, and the longer term development of human capital.

A strong and credible system for financing the global commons is key to securing enhanced and sustained funding for pandemic preparedness and response. Furthermore, effective global governance is needed in order to provide a systemic approach able to leverage the comparative advantages of different stakeholders and ensure coherence and effectiveness in the use of funds.

In the next months the Panel will continue its work, to present its final report at the G20 FMCBG meeting in July 2021. A Task Force composed of experts from Finance and Health Ministries, with the support of the WHO, the OECD and other relevant international organizations, will then review the Panel’s recommendations and propose follow-up actions in a document to be presented, together with the report of the HLIP, for adoption at the Joint G20 Meeting of Finance and Health Ministers next October.

In the coming months, these activities will progress in parallel with other international initiatives aimed at tackling the pandemic, starting with the Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21st.

All the Panel’s activities, related background material and information are available in a dedicated website (https://www.pandemic-financing.org/resources.html), launched to promote the activities of the Panel.

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