LOS ANGELES–Following the postponement of the in-person meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia of the Civil 20 (C20) group—which represents civil society members from the world’s 20 largest economies (G20)—the C20 Health Working Group convened virtually today to outline its vision for the global health agenda ahead of the G20 summit scheduled for November 2020.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that prompted the change in format for the C20 meeting, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) issued a statement urging world leaders to make a new Global Public Health Convention a top priority for the G20.
“This pandemic has confirmed what we already knew to be true, the world is woefully unprepared to deal with infectious disease outbreaks of this scale,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “There are uniform global rules that apply to air traffic control, maritime law and nuclear energy – all of these are designed to keep us safe, why should global public health be any different? The G20 is in a unique position to strengthen how the world responds to international health emergencies and they should start by creating a Global Public Health Convention.”
The text of the statement AHF contributed to the dialogue of the C20 Health Working Group is included below in its entirety.
G20: Promote a New Global Public Health Convention
After COVID19 pandemic no more business as usual
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 13 March 2020
SARS, MERS, H1N1, Ebola, COVID-19—enough is enough. It is time for a new Global Public Health Convention, one that brings nations together to fund and enforce a minimum set of evidence-based principles of public health promotion, sanitary measures, disease prevention and pandemic preparedness. The world must be ready for the next novel disease outbreak or the reemergence of existing ones to pandemic levels.
Even under the impact of this coronavirus pandemic, members of G20 represent and will continue to represent the most powerful economies in the world. We can strengthen our core capacities and address the limitations of prior global campaigns, but this time there must be funding and enforcement.
The Global Health Security Initiative is a voluntary partnership with limited funding. Though pandemic preparedness has been in place for several years, unprecedented outbreaks continue to greatly harm our citizens. The WHO Health Emergencies Program depends on the goodwill of governments to provide correct and timely data, but domestic politics limit comprehensive responses.
Global pandemic preparedness is the central demand from the C20 to the G20. There can be no end to outbreaks like COVID-19 without altering the sanitary, social and political conditions from which these diseases advance. We need a new Global Public Health Convention now.
We are repeating history with our current pandemic, demonstrating once again how unprepared we truly are. While the WHO and other international groups can continue to reform at their own speed, the world needs a higher level of response. We have the tools to do better. GAVI successfully funds vaccination efforts to saves millions of lives. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria successfully delivers disease prevention and treatment services to millions of people across nations.
In its Joint Statement on Global Pandemic Preparedness released 2 March 2020, the G20 Engagement Groups seek to strengthen global outbreak response capacity, strengthen health systems, and facilitate research and development. Without explicit G20 commitments to significant monetary support and political leadership, the fates of these proposed efforts will be placated—again.
We urge G20 to recognize that a new, legally-binding Global Public Health Convention that emphasizes funding and enforcement is needed in this new decade—current efforts are simply not sufficient. Without funding, we lose resources. Without enforcement, we lose compliance.
No more H1N1. No more SARS. No more MERS. And no more COVID-19. We cannot have another outbreak of unmanageable scope. These pandemics are unsympathetic to an individual’s character, unconcerned about a country’s border, and indifferent to a population’s future. When a disease reaches one nation, it spreads to all nations.
It is time for the G20 to promote a new Global Public Health Convention that commits to funding and enforcement. After the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the world cannot afford continuing business as usual.