The Panel for a Global Public Health Convention (GPHC) – an independent coalition of global leaders and former heads of state, including John Mahama, Former President of Ghana – proposed a bold path forward in a new Call to Action to dramatically strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response through a new Pandemic Treaty.
The panel aims to tackle geopolitical tension, the critical need for clear accountability and compliance mechanisms, and proposed governance structures for leaders to consider.
Now in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, as new waves continue to rip through countries, the Panel warns that alarming deficits and gaps in compliance remain unaddressed along the continuum of what an effective epidemic and pandemic response could look like.
Not only are countries no better prepared today to stop disease X, but the current international system has led to an unequal, two-tier response where one third of the world’s population remain unvaccinated, which could yet undermine all the progress made to date.
“Countries need to wake up because global health security is only as strong as its weakest link,” said Barbara M. Stocking, Chair of GPHC. “Building a new Pandemic Treaty rooted in solidarity, transparency, accountability and equity is non-negotiable – it is in every
“Ethical values of fairness and equity were tossed out the window in the last two years. If we want a more secure and healthy world, we need to start rebuilding trust in the international system and among nations. For that to happen, we need a transparent and transformed international governing system for pandemic preparedness and response,” said Ricardo B. Leite, Founder & President, UNITE.
Jane Halton, the Chair, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said that we now have the hindsight and solutions to ensure all countries can access the same level of preparedness and response measures. “Next time there will be no excuse.”
The new set of recommendations call for a positively incentivised system where compliance with agreed preparedness standards, alert protocols and response efforts are overseen by an independent monitoring and assessment body, covering both data and action.
To both publicly praise and criticize countries depending on their adherence to such requirements, the Panel proposes the body sit at arm’s length to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO should be strengthened so that its role at the center of the global health infrastructure is enhanced.
This means it would set international standards in preparedness and response and support countries in achieving targets, but would also be supported by an independent body that has the mandate to call on and call out countries based on performance of pandemic preparedness, detection and response.
“Whether we’re talking about the climate crisis, antimicrobial resistance, or the next global health security threat, we will not have an impact without compliance and full accountability,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, Professor and Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law, Georgetown University.
“Currently, there are no incentives and accountability measures for countries to transparently report outbreaks and to contain them before they become pandemics. Many governments haven’t complied with the regulations we do have. More than ever, we need a binding international treaty to reform our system. We can, and must, leave a safer world for our children,” he said.
The Panel recognizes that while agreed indicators for pandemic preparedness will vary based on a country’s current capacities and financial outlook, all targets must be ambitious and take a whole-of-government approach. All countries should be accountable to meet
their targets, and an independent body should be responsible for tracking and monitoring progress or regression.
“It’s in everyone’s national interest to leave no one behind. Yet, the last two years have shown us that marginalized communities and those living in lower income regions disproportionately bear the brunt of COVID-19’s debilitating effects on people and societies,” said John Dramani Mahama, Former President of Ghana.
“We cannot ignore those who were forgotten the first time around. Thus, a new Pandemic Treaty must ensure life-saving tools and resources are available to people everywhere.”
The set of recommendations emphasize that sufficient funds will be needed to support new international architecture for pandemic preparedness and response, namely, predictable, sustainable and timely funding. A multilateral facility would enable easy access to funds and ensure low- and middle-income countries are able to meet determined international requirements to detect, report and respond to health threats.
“It’s no good creating a new Pandemic Treaty if we don’t ensure countries can access the funds needed to comply with it.” said Angel Gurría, Former Secretary-General, OECD; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Mexico.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic through to today, funding for the global response has been slow, unreliable and insufficient. We expect things to get better, but how can we hope for better results if we’re not willing to pay for them?”
Key to an effective Pandemic Treaty will be measures that secure mutual assurance along the timeline of events. The Panel argues that all agreements on who is required to take what action and when must be negotiated and determined to ensure actors can mobilize in time to contain outbreaks.
This includes accountability for preparation; transparent and real-time reporting of health threats; implementation of evidence-based public health measures; information sharing, including of genetic sequences, specimens and samples; equitable distribution of pandemic goods; as well as a fully funded financing facility.
“If we do not transform learnings from the last two years into an effective global system capable of stopping the next outbreak, future generations will look back in disbelief at our failure to stop preventable deaths,” said Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Former President
of Costa Rica and Vice President of the World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid. “We have the lessons and tools to change the way the world responds next time – let’s now put them to work through a new Pandemic Treaty.”
“When countries shirk their responsibility to protect citizens from health threats, they are infringing on everyone’s fundamental human right to health,” said Jemilah B. Mahmood, Executive Director, Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, Sunway University Malaysia.
While many countries have gone above and beyond to protect their citizens from COVID-19, we cannot afford another piecemeal approach. We need a system that holds all countries to account and ensures assistance for those that need it” said Maha El Rabbat, Former Minister of Health and Population, Egypt. “We must break the cycle of vaccine nationalism, which continues to cripple the COVID-19 response effort. Countries need to realign their priorities and realize that this pandemic, or any future outbreak, will not end until we start sharing data, evidence, know-how and life-saving innovations in a timely, transparent and fair manner.”
“Too many voices have gone unheard in the pandemic response. If we want to get it right the next time around and create a truly equitable Pandemic Treaty, civil society, communities and academia also need a place at the decision-making table. We cannot guarantee the best outcome without them,” Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director, AHF Global Public Health Institute.
The Panel notes that for a transformed international system for pandemic preparedness and response to work, it must also be coherently governed. An overarching governance body overseen at the heads of state level would need to ensure equity and inclusion, coordination, trust between all parties and accountability.
As global health leaders continue to negotiate a Pandemic Treaty this year, the Panel urges them to take bold action and ensure no person will ever have to endure a pandemic that could have been prevented.
The Panel for a Global Public Health Convention (GPHC) is an independent coalition of global leaders working to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, prepare, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks before they become widespread pandemics. The Panel was
founded in 2020 in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of bridging critical gaps in the global public health architecture and policy frameworks by promulgating a new global public health treaty or convention in an effort to ensure another