Former New Zealand Prime Minister and pandemic preparedness chief says we aren’t ready for the following disaster

By | September 25, 2023

New York — If one other pandemic happens, the world will probably be unprepared once more.

That is the grim evaluation of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who co-chairs the Unbiased Pandemic Preparedness and Response Fee, after the UN Common Meeting held a high-level summit geared toward avoiding one other pandemic. Consequence: one other assembly held.

Different epidemiologists who adopted months of negotiations over the 13-page declaration adopted by the meeting’s 193 member states have been additionally dissatisfied.

“I feel it is honest to say that the announcement represents a missed alternative,” Clark mentioned in an interview with The Related Press on the sidelines of the Common Meeting’s high-level leaders’ assembly. “It incorporates many pages and paragraphs and the one agency dedication is to carry one other high-level assembly in three years.”

Clark, who addressed final week’s summit, is the latest member of the group of former world leaders based by the late Nelson Mandela often known as the Elders. The primary drawback, she mentioned, is the primary focus of promoting on well being.

She mentioned the Covid-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of about 24 million folks, however has additionally set again the UN’s 2030 objectives on a variety of points together with eradicating excessive poverty and starvation, guaranteeing high quality secondary training for each youngster and attaining gender equality. Clark additionally pointed to the catastrophic financial impacts of the pandemic: a $25 trillion loss to the worldwide economic system, and the debt and defaults engulfing many creating nations.

Listening to well being ministers, the vast majority of audio system on the summit, Clark mentioned lots of them missed the purpose: Epidemics do not simply have an effect on well being; They have an effect on many various elements of individuals’s lives and authorities operations.

“It was clear they need to have taken a complete view,” she mentioned. “However they took a really slender path to speak about well being.”

The declaration that was adopted highlighted the significance of taking the required measures to arrange for the following epidemic. In a “name to motion,” the Common Meeting’s Political Declaration commits nations “to scale up our impacts to strengthen epidemic prevention, preparedness and response.”

To do that, the decision requires motion that begins with strengthening regional and worldwide cooperation “on the highest political ranges and throughout all related sectors.” She mentioned the purpose needs to be to “overcome inequalities and guarantee sustainable, reasonably priced, honest, equitable, efficient, environment friendly and well timed entry” to vaccines and different medical countermeasures – and guarantee high-level consideration throughout many sectors.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-Common of the United Nations World Well being Group, described the announcement as a “historic milestone.” He welcomed the leaders’ dedication to offering the required affect and steering in order that WHO, governments and others can help “the worldwide well being structure for the well being emergencies the world wants.”

The Pandemic Motion Community, a coalition of greater than 350 organizations centered on stopping and treating future pandemics, agreed it was a “historic second” for leaders to level out the significance of collective motion. Nonetheless, it wasn’t utterly free.

The community mentioned in a press release: “Though we’re blissful that they’ve overcome the geopolitical tensions that threatened the passage of any declaration, we stay dissatisfied by the compromise textual content that lacks a transparent resolution.” The community mentioned that the political declaration “was a missed alternative for leaders to make bold commitments to stop the following pandemic and set up accountability for the long run.”

The Epidemiological Motion Community, Clark and others additionally criticized that a lot of the leaders who attended the Common Meeting’s annual high-level assembly despatched well being ministers to the summit and didn’t come themselves.

UN Secretary-Common António Guterres tried and failed to influence the world’s 20 main economies to coordinate the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic after it started in early 2020.

The UN chief mentioned that whereas the fast testing and fast improvement of vaccines are notable achievements, he additionally lamented the shortage of preparedness, the disproportionate affect on the world’s poorest nations and the vaccine hoarding by the richest nations.

“We should not repeat the errors of the previous when the following pandemic hits – as everyone knows it’s going to – and different well being threats emerge,” Guterres mentioned.

Clark mentioned that the committee, which she chaired with former Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, known as for robust management and the institution of a worldwide council on well being threats appointed by the Common Meeting, and together with representatives from areas of the world. It will function a “voice for continued mobilization of political momentum and can for preparedness, response and funding,” Clark mentioned.

Guterres known as on world leaders to the “Summit of the Future” at their annual world assembly subsequent September. Clark mentioned he had placed on the agenda the concept of ​​establishing a commander-level physique for complicated emergencies. If this group can put together not only for pandemics, however for meals, safety and local weather emergencies as nicely, “there could also be some risk on this,” she mentioned.

“But when an ambulance is on the backside of the abyss, it will not have the ability to do the job,” she mentioned.

“We are actually on this cycle of panic and neglect,” Clark mentioned. We have been by means of a little bit of a scare with the coronavirus. “Now we’re in a state of neglect.”

“If there was one other pandemic outbreak tomorrow, we might not be higher ready, and arguably worse off,” she mentioned.


Edith M. Lederer, The Related Press’s chief United Nations correspondent, has been protecting worldwide affairs for greater than 50 years.

(Tags for translation) Epidemics

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