G20 nations pledge $1B to global pandemic fund

BenarNews staff
2022.06.21
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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G20 nations pledge $1B to global pandemic fund Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (right) talks to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, June 21, 2022.
Indonesian Presidential Secretariat handout

Several G20 nations have pledged more than a billion dollars toward a proposed permanent fund to prevent and respond to future pandemics, Indonesia’s finance minister said Tuesday.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati made the announcement during a meeting in Yogyakarta of the Group of 20 major economies’ health and finance ministers, to hammer out the details of the so-called Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF). The fund will be managed jointly by the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

“I’m pleased to announce a commitment of almost U.S. $1.1 billion has been secured for the Financial Intermediary Fund,” Sri Mulyani said in a speech opening the meeting, hailing the pledged contributions as “significant progress.”

“I’m sure this is just the beginning,” she said, adding that Indonesia, the current chair of the G20, had committed $50 million.

The goal is for all G20 countries to pledge contributions for a total of $1.5 billion this year, according to Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin who said the money was only “a 50 percent solution” to a global health crisis.

“We need to translate this money into quick and just access to emergency medical countermeasures like vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,” he said in his opening speech. 

Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, the European Union, and a London-based charitable foundation have committed a total of about $1 billion to the fund, Budi said on Monday.

Later, Sri Mulyani told reporters that the World Bank is scheduled to meet on June 30 to discuss details about the FIF.

“By that time, if it is approved by the board, FIF will start to operate,” she said. 

The talks followed a meeting of G20 health ministers on Monday. Russia’s deputy health minister attended despite U.S. opposition to Moscow’s participation in G20 events following its February invasion of Ukraine.

A joint health and finance ministers’ meeting is scheduled for just before the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali in November, Sri Mulyani said.

$31 billion needed annually

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic fund was a key recommendation made at the World Health Assembly last month.

“The WHO and the World Bank estimate that U.S. $31 billion is needed every year for strengthening global health security,” Ghebreyesus said in remarks opening the G20 health ministers’ meeting on Monday.

“Two-thirds of that could come from existing resources, but that leaves a gap of U.S. $10 billion per year. A flexible and agile FIF would help to close that gap,” Ghebreyesus said in his remarks at Monday’s meeting.

The World Bank said the FIF is intended for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, with the goal to help developing countries become better prepared for future pandemics.

“The proposed FIF will complement existing financing efforts and institutions and it will have the flexibility to work through strong implementing institutions, drawing on their comparative strengths,” an organization report said.

“The FIF is expected to bring additional, long-term, dedicated resources for PPR [prevention, preparedness and response], incentivize countries to increase investments in PPR, and enhance coordination among partners. While ensuring inclusivity, the FIF’s design will be underpinned by simple and agile governance and operating arrangements.”

Ghebreyesus warned countries not to become complacent about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying risks of dangerous new variants remained real and perceptions that the pandemic is over are “misguided.”

“The WHO remains very concerned that the lack of testing and sequencing is blinding us to the evolution of the virus,” he said. “We are equally concerned that the lessons of this pandemic will go unlearned and the cycle of panic and neglect will be repeated.”

‘Undue stress’

Some speakers at Monday’s meeting began their remarks with criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Italy condemns in the strongest possible terms Russian unprovoked and justified military aggression in Ukraine, which grossly violates international law and the United Nations Charter and undermines international security and stability,” said Davide La Cecilia, diplomatic adviser to the Italian health minister.

“We underscore the significant disruption of [the] Ukrainian health system caused by the Russia war. Russia also needs to withhold its disinformation campaign and cyber-attacks,” he said.

Andrea Palm, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, urged Russia to stop its “unprovoked and unjustified” war on Ukraine immediately.

She said Russia’s actions had placed “undue stress on the global health architecture, as well as on food security.”

“Far from promoting global health, Russia’s actions have disrupted health services, destroyed health facilities and continue to strike buildings where innocent civilians, including children, are sheltering,” she said.

Russian Deputy Health Minister Oleg Salagay, who attended in person, accused some countries of politicizing the meeting.

He said health emergencies had occurred since 2014 in Ukraine’s Donbas region, part of which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists, because of what he called “military aggression” and “illegal actions of Ukraine.”

“We are asking our colleagues not to politicize the G20 health platform and stay within our mandate and discuss health care,” Salagay told the meeting.   

More than 80 delegates representing G20, partner countries and international organizations attended the meeting in person while 50 attended the meeting virtually, the Indonesian Health Ministry said.

Attendees also discussed a draft agreement on a universal standard for proof of COVID-19 vaccination which is expected to make international travel easier.

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