G20 commitments on health research are a welcome start, but fail to define specifics
GHTC statement on the Rome Declaration from the Global Health Summit.
Today’s Global Health Summit was a moment to address the ongoing urgent needs to combat COVID-19, reflect on the lessons learned over the past year, and start the process of laying out a tangible road map for addressing not just the current pandemic, but the systemic inequities and challenges in the global health ecosystem that have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. World leaders developed a set of principles through the Rome Declaration, which is set to guide the ongoing discussions in various multilateral fora and provide the foundation around which partners will engage in the coming months.
GHTC welcomes the research-related commitments in the declaration, especially the call by G20 leaders to “invest predictably, effectively and adequately, in line with national capacities, in domestic, international and multilateral cooperation in research, development, and innovation, for health systems tools and non-pharmaceutical measures, considering issues of scalability, access, and manufacturing from an early stage.”
We support the pledge by G20 leaders to support low- and middle-income countries to build expertise and develop local and regional manufacturing capacities for medical countermeasures. We are also pleased to see the declaration call for an expansion of international financial institution mandates to provide investment in country preparedness capacity, which we believe could provide new, sustainable, and catalytic funding for vital research capabilities, including laboratory infrastructure, clinical trial networks, workforce development, and surveillance and pathogen sharing platforms to low- and middle-income countries.
While the Rome Declaration includes some high-level priority guidelines for how research and development (R&D) fits into the ongoing global health security reform discussions, it is disappointing to see research not be enshrined more explicitly as a central pillar of preparedness or as a missing element of the International Health Regulations and other global frameworks. While outlining the need for more R&D investment and coordination is a good start, GHTC would have welcomed a more substantial call for developing clear coordination mechanisms to assess R&D capacity gaps, as well as specific pathways for how G20 leaders will seek to boost manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries. The recent Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response report highlighted more concrete recommendations on possible models and frameworks, and we hope that G20 leaders will start to delve into the details and build tangible proposals for advancing global health security that include R&D as a fundamental element.
The time has come to move from declaration to action. We look forward to further engagement by G20 countries and other stakeholders at next week’s World Health Assembly to start to define the intricacies of new frameworks and reform efforts to the global health architecture, and hope that R&D more concretely factors in as a key element of health preparedness.