According to a new report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), the world is broken in its inequality, division, and lack of accountability, making a health emergency ecosystem incapable of ending the COVID-19 pandemic or preventing another.
The opportunity for reform is changing rapidly as the world loses interest, the GPMB warned at the World Health Summit in Berlin. However, the GPMB, an international body responsible for assessing the state of the world’s preparedness for pandemics and other health emergencies, noted that six actions could provide the sort of collaborative means to break political barriers and economic divides to make meaningful change if enacted equitably and quickly.
“If the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was defined by a collective failure to take preparedness seriously and act rapidly on the basis of science, the second has been marked by profound inequalities and a failure of leaders to understand our interconnectedness and act accordingly,” GPMB Co-Chair Elhadj As Sy said. “What will the third year bring?”
Within the report — From Worlds Apart to a World Prepared — As Sy and his colleagues noted that there are six critical solutions for a safer world:
- Strengthen global governance, adopt an international agreement on health emergency preparedness and response, and gather world leaders and stakeholders for a summit on health emergency preparedness and response.
- Strengthen WHO with greater resources, authority, and accountability.
- Establish a more equitable health emergency system with better information sharing and an end-to-end mechanism for research, development, and equal access to common goods.
- Create a collective funding mechanism for preparedness to ensure more sustainable, predictable, flexible, and scalable financing.
- Empower communities and ensure engagement of civil society and the private sector.
- Improve independent monitoring and mutual accountability.
These actions are needed immediately, the organization stressed, lest even the current effort to reform the health emergency ecosystem only exacerbates and prolongs society’s poor coordination and existing fragmentation.
“The GPMB shares its deep concern that COVID-19 has exposed a broken and divided world in which access to vaccines depends on ability to pay rather than need; where governments, leaders, and institutions are too often unaccountable to their populations; and in which societies are fragmented, nationalism is growing, and geopolitical tensions are rising,” the GPMB said in a statement.
It added that the world is plagued by a fundamental misunderstanding of global solidarity. Many equate it to goodwill and aid rather than a system based on equity and common interest. This has made for a system, in GPMB’s view, based on the rich offering donations of countermeasures to the poor, rather than offering manufacturing capabilities, technology transfers, or fair intellectual property provisions to provide for them long term.
Even in terms of reform, the organization warned, from international to national leadership, meetings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have provided limited evidence of actual impact, despite many positive declarations of intent. Accountability is lacking — and that, the organization determined, sorely needs to change.