Governance and Financing for International Cooperation on Pandemic Preparedness

Dec 6, 2022 |
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In partnership with the Center for Global Development (CGD), the American Academy organized a virtual panel event focused on strengthening global cooperation for pandemic preparedness. The event reviewed the current state of financing for pandemic preparedness, pandemic treaty negotiations with the World Health Assemblies, and the role of multilateral collaboration in driving an agenda to reform the global health architecture. 

The event drew on CGD's global health security work and the Academy’s April 2022 report “International Cooperation Failures in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Learning from Past Efforts to Address Common Threats” by Jennifer Welsh (Academy member; Co-Chair, Rethinking the Humanitarian Health Response to Violent Conflict project). 

The event was moderated by Amanda Glassman (Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow of CGD). Academy President David Oxtoby introduced the Academy and provided context for the Academy’s longstanding Global Affairs work and the Humanitarian Health project. Featured panelists included Jennifer Welsh, Justice Nonvignon (Agency Head of Health Economics Programme, Africa CDC), David Fidler (Senior Fellow for Global Health and Cybersecurity, Council on Foreign Relations), and José Alvarez (Academy member; Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law, New York University School of Law).  

Jennifer Welsh set forth ways in which cooperation in the field of pandemic preparedness and response (PPR) is particularly complex because it entails coordination among many participants over an extended period of time, is multifaceted in scope, and must be based on a common scientific and epidemiological foundation. With uncertainty surrounding the World Health Assemblies’ process for a new legal instrument, she advised that policymakers should focus in the short term on enhancing compliance with existing state commitments and address challenges arising from different state capacities. They can achieve this by addressing the economic and political compliance barriers with the Interational Health Regulations (2005) and by ensuring the production and equitable provision of key public health interventions. 

Justice Nonvignon signaled significant access gaps and challenges, particularly for low-income countries and low-to-middle-income countries, due to the nature or structure of governance processes and lack of absorptive capacity at a country level. Regarding global financing mechanisms, he advised that pursuing processes that make funds more accessible and less bureaucratic at domestic levels without significantly increasing costs at the global level should be prioritized.  

David Fidler spoke on the U.S. domestic and foreign policies on PPR. He criticized the U.S. for not being better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, of which had devastating consequences on its population. This was not because U.S. foreign policy had been ignored globally. In the two decades prior to the pandemic, the U.S. claimed to be and was a prominent leader in global health. However, during the pandemic, the U.S. global health leadership comprehensively failed to make global health decisions in the U.S. national interest.  

José Alvarez stated that the U.S. preferred method of reforming the regime through more amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHRs) would not be quicker than the EU-preferred method of a pandemic prevention treaty. He pointed out that the U.S. proposal to amend the IHRs is driven partially by political considerations, given that the Biden administration would not be able to get a pandemic prevention treaty through Congress. However, he noted that the IHRs can be improved in some ways in response to the Academy’s April 2022 report. 

After the speakers’ opening remarks, a group discussion followed, which raised issues on the pandemic influenza preparedness framework and the lack of political urgency on pandemic preparedness and response, considering other global conflicts and issues of international security. 

Event video below.

Governance and Financing for International Cooperation on Pandemic Preparedness