FEEDBACK – Global pledges for COVID-19: a starting point to step-up international solidarity, but we need to stay vigilant | May 7, 2020
The COVID-19 pledging conference, hosted by the European Commission and its partners on May 4th, marked a good start to mobilise adequate resources to tackle the pandemic. In moving forward, we need to make sure that equity, accountability, and universal access stand as core principles for the implementation of this initiatives. The European Union joined […]
The COVID-19 pledging conference, hosted by the European Commission and its partners on May 4th, marked a good start to mobilise adequate resources to tackle the pandemic.
In moving forward, we need to make sure that equity, accountability, and universal access stand as core principles for the implementation of this initiatives.
The European Union joined forces with global partners to kick-start a pledging effort – the Coronavirus Global Response – responding to the WHO’s and global health organisations’ call to develop fast and equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines against coronavirus. On May 4th, countries and organisations around were invited to pledge to help reach the target of €7.5 billion in initial funding.
With €7.4 billion pledged, the sum raised fell just short of the target of €7.5 billion, but more funding is expected to be pledged in the coming weeks and months. The EU, Japan, Germany, UK, Italy and Spain are amongst the key contributors. Private donors, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also responded to the call. Humanity & Inclusion joins the voices of the many actors in the humanitarian and global health sectors in welcoming this initiative as a good starting point to scale up the global response.
A most needed global response to COVID-19
Indeed, as of now, the response to the COVID-19 crisis has been mainly national. High income countries facing the health crisis on their territory have so far limited consideration for the global impact, especially the impact of the crisis on developing countries with limited resources and fragile health systems. The unprecedented scope and gravity of this crisis calls for international solidarity, and a coordinated and ambitious response at global level.
Support to low-income and fragile countries, renewed commitments to humanitarian and development aid, and support to health systems were messages conveyed across many leaders’ pledges (including France, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Sweden). We welcomed this approach and hope to see these principles translated into consistent actions.
“Our contribution includes also support to developing countries; we cannot do this without thinking of the world at the same time” Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
“We should be guided by the SDGs, including the commitment to leave no one behind. We commit to support COVID-19 efforts towards the poorest and most vulnerable” Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway
COVID-19 is indeed exacerbating humanitarian needs in countries that are already facing humanitarian crises. New barriers resulting from the pandemic add up to the already existing barriers, challenging even more humanitarian access.
Ensuring equity, accountability and universal access
In channeling the funding to the three identified strands (diagnostics, treatments and vaccine), universal access should stand as a guiding principle and main concern. Persons suffering from specific health conditions, chronic diseases and older persons, amongst them persons with some type of disabilities, are at higher risk of contracting and developing severe cases of COVID-19. These groups are also at higher risk to be discriminated against, adding further barriers when seeking care, including in some cases to be disqualified from accessing health care during this crisis by the pressure to “choose” who should receive care in priority.
In order to ensure universal access to health in both the short and long-term, international aid efforts should increase for health system strengthening: stronger health systems (appropriately resourced, effectively managed, equipped with adequate level of workforce, accessible and affordable) are the pillars to prevent, manage, respond and recover from any health crisis. Health system strengthening should be included as the 4th strand of the COVID-19 pledging initiative.
We point out the lack of clarity around the governance and the accountability framework for managing the significant funding that was pledged. Since the response is multifaceted, with funding going to different global health initiatives and organizations (including CEPI, Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, and the Global Fund and Unitaid), it is pivotal to put in place a system that ensures coordination, accountability, transparency and equity in the use of this public funding. The governance and accountability framework of the initiative should also ensure that the effort will enable NGO’s response with additional and flexible funding.
An essential first step, in terms of accountability, should be to set a clear baseline for this pledging initiative: it is important to understand how much of these pledges were already announced, how much is actually “fresh money”, how much is re-directed from other existing programs (with the risk of being detrimental to other important sectors) in order to identify gaps, set ambitions and track the use of funding.