Global Health

G20 Health and Finance Ministers met on Friday, October 29th in Rome on the eve of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.  In their respective communiques released earlier this year, both groups asked for concrete proposals to be presented at this meeting to support sustainable financing for future pandemic preparedness and response, and to improve international governance and coordination between global health and finance policy makers.

How will we know if progress is actually being made and we are taking steps to avoid similar catastrophic impacts to our health and the economy in the future?  What are some of the “concrete proposals” we could see? Below are five things we will be looking for from G20 leaders, health and finance officials:

Announcement of a new G20 forum on health and finance coordination. 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati issued a letter to their G20 colleagues on October 25 calling on the G20 countries to support the creation of a new financing facility with the flexibility to complement the multilateral development banks.

A common understanding for how the new fund/funds will be managed. 

While it’s unlikely that we will see all the details agreed to at these upcoming meetings a general understanding for how the new structures will operate and complement the current global health architecture will help to expedite the necessary financing.  For example, an understanding that a financial intermediary fund will initially be established with the World Bank as a trustee and initial host.

A financing commitment commensurate with the need. 

Groups such as the “G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response” have called for a minimum of US$15 billion per year in new international financing to support pandemic prevention and preparedness.

A recognition that countries will need to increase domestic investments in core capacities. 

Governments will need to mobilize increased domestic resources on a sustained basis. Independent groups have recommended that low- and middle-income countries will need to add about 1% of GDP to public spending on health over the next five years. International Finance Institutions (IFIs) can incentivize investments with matching grants and results-based programmatic lending. 

A commitment to leverage the capabilities and resources of the private and philanthropic sectors. 

Even before the pandemic there was recognition that in order to achieve the sustainable development goals, including those related to health, there would need to be efforts to catalyze additional investment from the private sector and develop new and innovative financing mechanisms.  The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for governments and multilateral development banks to develop new strategies to mobilize and augment private finance.

This last recommendation is one that groups like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum are addressing through their Health Financing Initiative. A roadmap was developed and endorsed this year to help governments recognize the importance of investing in their healthcare systems and the return on investment that can be achieved from those investments.  The roadmap also aims to help interested economies increase access to healthcare by expanding the role of the private sector and exploring the use of innovative and alternative financing models to deepen the level of coverage provided in APEC economies.

Final Takeaways

For months, officials have signaled that this meeting between health and finance ministers would be the opportunity to move beyond generalizations and lofty principles on cooperation and put forward tangible proposals to address global health financing – in response to the worst pandemic in over one hundred years and one that is estimated to cost the global economy some $22 trillion in lost output between 2020-2025.

The fact that health and finance ministers are meeting together is an important step and signal that health is an intrinsic part of economic growth and stability.  The new financing should also be used to strengthen health systems and incorporate issues that have complicated our pandemic response, including investments in primary health care, mental health, and non-communicable diseases as they often contribute to the morbidity and mortality of pandemic illness.

While it’s clear that the current levels of funding are insufficient and have in part led to the current crisis, governments should seize this opportunity to build back better because unfortunately this will not be the last pandemic, nor the last time that our health security and economic security are intimately linked.

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