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Failing the Pandemic Preparedness Test

After significant advocacy by poorer countries and civil society, the G20’s pandemic-preparedness fund is being designed to embody a more equitable and balanced governance model. But without adequate funding and much larger additional investments in health systems, the new fund will become just another burdensome distraction.

LONDON – The pandemic is not over. While the summer of 2022 is very different from the summer of 2020, because we now have vaccines, treatments, and a better understanding of the virus, it’s not enough. Every week, 15,000 people still die from COVID-19. Poorer countries still struggle to deploy vaccines, tests, diagnostics, and other tools. And countries at all income levels remain woefully unprepared for the next pandemic, even though experts warn that its arrival is a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, global leaders have acknowledged the need for greater coordination, collaboration, and collective financing to support improved pandemic preparedness and response (PPR). Following the recommendations of a High-Level Independent Panel, the G20 agreed last June to establish a new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) – hosted by the World Bank, in partnership with the World Health Organization – to help fill the $10.5 billion annual gap in PPR financing.

Many see the FIF as a long-overdue opportunity to change how we collectively address global common goods like health (or climate). Under a more inclusively governed global PPR support system, all countries would participate in decision-making and burden-sharing, and all would reap the same collective benefits. This would mean moving away from the outdated and ineffective donor-beneficiary status quo, where PPR is viewed as just another “development” project. Instead, everyone would recognize that when it comes to averting global health crises, the needs, gaps, benefits, and responsibilities are collective and universal, even if they are allocated unevenly around the world.

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