Member states must strengthen WHO and the global R&D architecture to meet urgent health challenges
At this week’s World Health Organization (WHO) inaugural forum with non-state actors, WHO, its member states, and civil society will be discussing reforms that could be spearheaded through the forthcoming World Health Assembly to better confront COVID-19 and future health threats, drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, and shore up sustainable financing for the institution.
As WHO member states consider the broader concerns of civil society, GHTC urges them to prioritize the following actions to bolster research and development (R&D) to defeat COVID-19, combat other long-standing and emerging threats, and build resilient health systems:
- Ensure the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is fully funded. ACT-A is facing a US$22.1 billion shortfall in funding for 2021 to realize its mission to develop and equitably deliver COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests, and other tools worldwide. This includes $8.7 billion for diagnostics, $3.2 billion for therapeutics, $3.2 billion for vaccines, and $7.3 billion for the health systems connector pillar.
- Integrate R&D into the International Health Regulations (IHR) and any future pandemic treaty that bolsters the framework. As conversations around WHO reform continue, member states should include R&D capacity indicators within IHR implementation and ensure that a potential pandemic treaty creates concrete mechanisms that support countries in strengthening their R&D and manufacturing capabilities and address some of the R&D coordination challenges encountered in the early days of the pandemic.
- Provide more sustainable, predictable funding to WHO so it is adequately resourced to assess new health technologies and drive their uptake. Additional funding should be allocated to the WHO Science Division and the prequalification program to support and accelerate their vital normative activities to evaluate technologies and provide guidance to countries on their use. These funds should also provide greater support for the WHO Global Observatory on Health R&D to ensure its data is more effectively leveraged for assessing country and regional research capacity.
- Sustain robust investments in R&D for long-standing global health challenges. The pandemic has eroded global progress against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other poverty-related and neglected diseases and disrupted research efforts. To regain lost ground, member states must recommit to making strong sustained R&D investments and incentivize public-private partnerships to advance end-to-end product development of affordable, accessible tools.
It is GHTC’s hope that WHO, member states, and civil society can come together to use this forum to help chart a new path and seize this moment to strengthen the global response to the current pandemic and other ongoing health threats.