By Isabelle De Lichtervelde
Last week during the third annual Paris Peace Forum, the European Commission, France, Spain, The Republic of Korea, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together pledged US$360 million to COVAX, bringing the total committed to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) to over US$5.1 billion. But an additional US$4.2 billion is still needed urgently, with another US$23.9 billion needed by the end of 2021.
At the Pandemic Action Network, we welcome leaders continuing to step up to fund the ACT-A. However, the road ahead is still very long and funding is still urgently required for the global response.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the European Commission (EC) has shown much-needed leadership in multilateral efforts to fight COVID-19. EC President Ursula von der Leyen committed an additional €100 million to COVAX at this year’s Paris Peace Forum, reminding delegates that the ACT-A US$28.4 billion funding gap is equivalent to “the same sum the transport sector and the global tourism sector lose in just two days of lockdown”.
But not all the money pledged last week was new. “We aren’t going to beat the virus if we abandon part of humanity,” French President Emmanuel Macron rightly said. But the French president hasn’t quite put his money where his mouth is yet. The €100 million from France and €50 million from Spain that were pledged on the second day of the conference are pledges that had already been announced several months ago. Although the clarification that this money will be allocated to COVAX’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) helps provide much needed transparency, and confirms that the funds will help low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) secure vaccines, clarifying past pledges is not the level of ambition needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the ACT-A Facilitation Council, said: “We have to look beyond aid for financing. We need to look at private sector, innovative mechanisms, other ways to get this money, fast. We need to accelerate this faster than we are doing these days.” The world urgently needs to look for other sources of financing in order to fill the ACT-A funding gap. Crucially, countries must look beyond limited official development assistance (ODA) envelopes and not divert ODA from other lifesaving programmes in developing countries.
Working together is the only way out of the pandemic. The ACT-A is our greatest hope to end the crisis as quickly as possible, and will benefit everyone around the world. It is also the best investment every country can make – national economies would see the return on investment in less than 36 hours once global mobility and trade can be safely restored.
Against the ACT-A’s US$38.1 billion total needs, US$5.1 billion has been committed to date, alongside down payments of US$4.8 billion through COVAX self-financing countries. To accelerate the end to the greatest global health crisis in our history, leaders must act boldly and quickly.