Lessons that Defined our Third Year and the View Ahead

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This year, as we marked the third anniversary of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30, I reflected back to what it felt like three years ago, before we even fully understood the impact of COVID-19. In the three short years since then, we have developed a Network that has the power to unlock resources, catalyse change, and redefine what’s possible. 

Now the pandemic era has become part of the era of the polycrisis, and we are leading the charge to keep pandemic risks on the political agenda through our networked advocacy model. I’m delighted to share Pandemic Action Network’s Year Three Impact Report — Networked Advocacy for a Pandemic-Proof Future. We will be relentless in continuing our efforts to ensure that the brutal lessons of the COVID crisis are acted upon. Our mission is to make sure that every country is prepared to respond to outbreaks and prevent the next pandemic. 

We have learned that our mission is best served when our work is underpinned by these five principles:

Radical collaboration. Pandemics are too big and too complex for any one single stakeholder to tackle alone. That’s why we built an action-oriented Network — because partnerships can catalyse progress. We collaborate in different ways across different geographies — with groups of changemakers across Asia, Africa, Europe, the U.S., and we have added our Middle East work this year. We operate in a way that allows us to move forward together and quickly, with partners self-selecting when to get deeply involved.

Building common cause across issues. When a pandemic hits, every aspect of society is hit. When we examine the root causes of pandemics, the connection with other issues is crystal clear. That is why we are working to bring together climate, health, finance, gender, and development issues to co-create effective future advocacy agendas with expert colleagues across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), keeping pandemics as our anchor. From partnering on a climate-health convening with the Rockefeller Foundation in October to launching our gender working group in March, we are engaging with sectors beyond health to help us all prevent pandemics and build a more resilient future.

Structural solutions. Double standards endure in the handling of outbreaks such as Ebola and mpox — both persistent disease threats in many African countries for decades, yet there has been no urgency to act. Power dynamics, skewed decision-making structures, and imbalanced resources render us all more vulnerable to pandemic threats and require urgent action. Pandemic Action Network is working hard to fight for structural, not stop-gap solutions, with our Africa Director leading the way on our policy priorities to help us promote the most impactful agenda we can.

Agility. As “the pandemic” recedes in public consciousness, we must be agile and seize all possible opportunities to move our agenda forward. Being agile was critically important earlier this year as we sought to turn our three years of experience with the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) into a short pandemic countermeasures paper — and in March when we developed a pandemic clause brief to inform multilateral development bank (MDB) reform discussions.

Relentlessness. Outbreaks happen, but pandemics are a choice — this knowledge spurs us on to do what is needed to ensure all our communities are better prepared for the future. We will continue to grow and nurture this change-making Network from the grassroots advocates to the corridors where decisions are made — to fight for the justice, finance, and policy change needed to prevent future pandemics. 

The power of partnerships, putting the mission first, and the amazing talent and collaborative spirit of our community of 350+ organisations have helped us create a new kind of advocacy network. We will keep up our collaboration, radical in its openness; we will keep building common cause across issues, breaking down the false silos between advocates; we will keep fighting for structural solutions — because we simply cannot afford to do otherwise. We also commit to doing this with the same agility and relentlessness we have for the last three years.

To those that have worked with us: thank you, and to future partners: join us!

This letter is part of Pandemic Action Network’s Year Three Impact Report — Networked Advocacy for a Pandemic-Proof Future.