The U.S. government is seeking to play a key role in the establishment of a Global Health Threats Fund, a new proposed structure envisaged to be under the aegis of the World Bank. This could potentially upend parallel discussions on a pandemic treaty and eventually impact WHO’s role to meaningfully address future pandemics, sources familiar with recent discussions say.
The Global Health Threats Fund and a Board, were recommendations made by the G20 Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Financing. (Separately, the Independent Panel of Pandemic Preparedness and Response had suggested a Global Health Threats Council.)
The U.S. government, reportedly is keen to push through plans for a fund, and intends to “go-ahead” after consultations with like-minded countries, according to a source who attended a recent meeting discussing the G20 report. “This is very much in line with the unilateral way in which the US government has been operating. I will not say it is good or bad, but it is impressive. They put money on the table and get to set the norms”, a senior official source from a developed country who spoke on the condition of anonymity told us.
The meeting saw participation from more than 100 representatives of various organizations, however WHO was conspicuous by its absence, a senior diplomatic source told Geneva Health Files.
Notwithstanding, how determined the U.S., may be on this proposal, some believe that it may not be so simple in getting the rest of the G7, let alone the wider membership of the G20 on board with this. Reportedly a number of countries have expressed caution, on what it means in letting the U.S. drive post-pandemic governance and financing in global health.
(While the proposal also received support from Norway, it is understood that any decision to support this by Norway will be subject to post-election dynamics in Oslo, a source said.)
Despite the skepticism, there are indications that some countries might sign up to the US proposal in the interest of speed and in order to be able to influence it tactically within the limited scope available, a source said. Many countries are reportedly frustrated by the slow, multilateral decision-making in Geneva on matters of financing and pandemic response, sources say.
What is also interesting is that the Global Fund, another fund that was created by the U.S., is allegedly nervous about any such new financing facility since it will compete for financial resources, legitimacy, while potentially affecting the fight against diseases such as TB, Malaria and AIDS, a Geneva-based source told us.
While organizations such as the Global Fund are far better funded than WHO, in the wake of COVID-19, however, efforts are also on, to further expand the mandate of agencies such as the Global Fund. (Global Fund already has financing arrangements with the World Bank)
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