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World leaders join European Council President and WHO Director-General in calling for international pandemic treaty

World leaders joined European Council President Charles Michel and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in signing an op-ed calling for a new international pandemic treaty to ensure improved global pandemic preparedness and response for future potential health crises. 

The op-ed acknowledged that no country or multilateral agency could address the COVID-19 pandemic—or future pandemics—alone and that the current crisis serves as a reminder that no one is safe until everyone is safe. The treaty would encourage an “all-of-government and all-of-society approach” at all levels to enhance cooperation on a variety of preparedness and response measures. It would fortify mutual accountability and use a 'One Health' approach that looks at human health not as an isolated entity, but rather as intertwined with the health of animals and our planet. 

The heads of states highlighted the role that the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) has played in fighting the pandemic, as well as the lessons it has provided, including the need for stronger partnerships for equitable access to treatment and vaccines globally.

Leaders from the following countries signed the treaty: Fiji, Thailand, Portugal, Italy, Romania, the UK, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Chile, Costa Rica, Albania, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Senegal, Spain, Norway, Serbia, Indonesia, and Ukraine.

Press release - Council of the EU

Press release - WHO

News article - Euractiv

COVAX is best tool to reinforce European credibility on vaccines, says Italy's Draghi

Prime Minister Mario Draghi gave a speech at the Italian Senate ahead of the European council, praising the efforts of the COVAX, an international initiative and pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) formed after the COVID-19 pandemic started in order to provide global access to treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines. 

Draghi pointed out that COVAX, which Italy has contributed to, has guaranteed almost 30 million doses, and he said "we hope to make this mechanism more and more effective". Draghi further stated that reinforcing the European credibility on vaccines would require genuine international solidarity, and that "COVAX is the best tool to achieve this".

Transcript - Italian government

G7 Finance Ministers agree to new financial support package for low-income countries

The G7 Finance Ministers, led by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, have announced that they will back a new allocation of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF’s) special draw rights (SDRs) to boost member reserves and enable much-needed liquidity to vulnerable countries. The deal still needs a stamp of approval from G20 and the IMF’s Financing Committee.

As part of the deal, the G7 will work with the IMF to improve the transparency and accountability around the usage of SDRs. They will also explore how richer countries can recycle their SDR holdings to further help low-income countries and come up with some options for how to do this.

Press release - UK government

Former European leaders in WHO expert advisory group call for "rethink" of policy to prevent future pandemics

Former European leaders on the independent Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued a call to action for policy reform to prevent future pandemics. 

In their report, the members of the expert advisory group called for using lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis to fundamentally rethink policy priorities to implement a ‘One Health’ approach, address issues that have caused so many people to be vulnerable to the pandemic, make changes to the global financial system, promote global public goods for health, strengthen existing global health institutions, and support innovation in health systems. 

The group was chaired by Mario Monti—the President of Bocconi University and former Prime Minister of Italy—and included former presidents, prime ministers, ministers, CEOs, leaders of multilateral organizations, and other eminent leaders.

Report - WHO

Italy to host UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in July 2021

In partnership with the UN, the Italian government will host the Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on July 19-21, 2021.

Under the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the Pre-Summit will bring together global voices and contributions in an effort to transform food systems. 

The Food Systems Summit will take place in September alongside the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Press release - The Italian government

Website - Food Systems Summit

Approximately 70% of surveyed Europeans support making COVID-19 vaccine technology public

YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, conducted a survey for the People's Vaccine Alliance, a global coalition of organizations fighting for human rights including Amnesty International and Oxfam.

82% of Italians interviewed think that the government should ask pharmaceutical companies to make public the formulation and technology to produce COVID-19 vaccines. 68% of Italians interviewed believe that the Italian government should do more to ensure that everyone receives the vaccine by 2021.

The poll was also conducted in the US, France, Germany, and the UK, and it found that on average across those countries, 69% of people thought "that governments should ensure vaccine science and know-how is shared with qualified manufacturers around the world rather than remaining the exclusive property of a handful of pharmaceutical giants and that vaccine developers should be adequately compensated for this" (69% in the US, 63% in France, 70% in Germany, and 74% in the UK). 

Presentation - YouGov (in Italian)

Press release - Oxfam International

UK to set up new independent Gender Equality Advisory Council for G7

The UK government has announced that it will be setting up a new independent Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC) to feed into the G7 Leaders’ Summit that it is hosting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11-13, 2021. The GEAC is aimed at bringing fresh ideas and new voices to G7 discussions on gender equality and will have a strong focus on science and technology.

The UK Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, is responsible for establishing the Council. Sarah Sands, a former editor of the London Evening Standard (a UK newspaper) and of the BBC Radio 4's Today news program, has been appointed as the Chair of the Council. Other members will include Sarah Gilbert, who led the work on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

Canada established the first G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council in 2018 when it hosted the G7 and France continued the initiative.

Press release - UK government

News article - Government Computing

UK civil society calls on G7 world leaders to deliver transformative agenda; civil society C7 Summit to be held in April 2021

Bond, the UK network of development non-governmental organizations, has called for G7 world leaders to deliver a transformative agenda at the G7 Summit this year focused on protecting the most marginalized and building an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future for everyone. The UK is hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

In a recently published briefing, Bond set out seven key policy asks for G7 world leaders, calling on them to address the following topics:

  1. Health – Invest at home and abroad in stronger healthcare systems to ensure access to quality healthcare for all, redress health inequalities, and ensure that nations are resilient for future pandemics;
  2. Climate and environment – End all investment in fossil fuels, decarbonize the global economy, prioritize climate finance for vulnerable countries, and sign the Leaders' Pledge for Nature to stop biodiversity loss;
  3. Sustainable economic recovery – Ensure the private sector will be supported in any future international debt cancellations, as they are also needed to support decent work, social protection, and protect the livelihoods of marginalized people;
  4. Open societies and civic space – Be active champions of democracy and civil and human rights;
  5. Education – Ensure quality, inclusive, and equitable education for every child, with a special focus on addressing girls’ education;
  6. Food security and nutrition – Build sustainable and climate-resilient food systems and increase financial contributions for famine prevention and relief; and
  7. Conflict and atrocity prevention – De-escalate current conflicts, commit to action to address some of the most pressing crises, and support building peaceful societies.

Bond will be hosting a virtual Civil Society 7 Summit on April 19-20, 2021. The 'C7 Summit' will bring together civil society leaders from around the world and provide them with the opportunity to talk to the UK government and provide ideas for the joint communiqué of the G7 leaders’ summit.

Registration for the C7 Summit is open at the Bond website.

Report - Bond

Italian Joint Committee for Development Cooperation approves initiatives package including US$29 million to Gavi

The Italian Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Luigi Di Maio, participated in the first annual meeting of the Joint Committee for Development Cooperation, which approved a package of initiatives worth €106 million (US$129 million).

From the package, the Committee allotted €24 million (US$29 million) to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The Committee also allotted a budget of €3 million (US$4 million) for the organization of the Food Systems Summit and the pre-Summit meeting held in Rome in July 2021.

In his speech, Di Maio stressed the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation, and he listed the multilateral events in 2021 for which Italy will play a leadership role:

  • The G20 Presidency for 2021 and its Leaders’ Summit on October 30-31;
  • The Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21;
  • A session dedicated to Africa during the Foreign Minister’s meeting in Matera on June 29;
  • The pre-Summit for the Food Systems Summit, organized in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in Rome in July; and
  • The Italy-Africa Conference in October.

Press release - Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Donor Tracker webinar will focus on donor governments' funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights; accompanying publication available now

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker

Donor Tracker webinar to host webinar on donor finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker

Marina Sereni confirmed as Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation under new Prime Minister Mario Draghi

Marina Sereni has been appointed Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the cabinet of the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Sereni is an experienced politician who served as Vice President of the Italian Democratic Party, the leading center-left party, and as Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies from 2013 to 2018. She previously held the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs role in the previous government led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte,

News article - Info Cooperazione (in Italian)

At UK-led G7 meeting, "collective G7 support" to ACT-A totals US$7.5 billion, but experts criticize UK for retaining surplus doses until citizens are fully vaccinated

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 leaders' meeting on February 19, 2021, after which "collective G7 support" totaled US$7.5 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an increase of over US$4.0 billion.

ACT-A's vaccine pillar, COVAX, is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines, including to low-income countries.

At the meeting, the US under the new Biden administration pledged to provide US$4.0 billion in development assistance to COVAX over the next three years, Germany pledged an additional US$1.8 billion, and the EU pledged an additional US$608 million.

These commitments were welcomed by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, but he noted that more needs to be done. At present, only 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations worldwide, with 130 countries not yet receiving a single dose.

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for greater action to address the imbalance, with a drive to get Europe and the US to provide 5% of their own supplies to low-income nations. The UK has ruled out doing this and has committed only to providing its surplus vaccines after its entire population has been vaccinated. This decision has been criticized by some UK global health experts, who have questioned the ethics of such a decision, whereby young people in the UK will receive the vaccine ahead of health workers and elderly in other countries.  

News article - BBC

News article - Devex

With additional G7 pledges of US$4.3 billion, ACT-A commitments to date stand at US$10.3 billion; funding gap of US$22.9 billion remains

On February 19, 2021, at the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, US$4.3 billion in new commitments were made to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccine pillar, COVAX, to contribute to closing the funding gap in global COVID-19 response and ensure equitable vaccine distribution. 

The contributions included the following:

  • Canada committed US$59 million to ACT-A;
  • Japan committed US$79 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a COVAX funding mechanism to support access to vaccines for lower-income countries, as well as to Unitaid;
  • Germany committed US$1.8 billion to ACT-A, covering all of ACT-A's pillars and including "tests, treatments, vaccines, and health systems strengthening";
  • US committed US$4.0 billion to COVAX AMC (US$2.0 billion in already appropriated funds and an additional US$2.0 billion over the next two years); and
  • The EU committed US$363 million to COVAX AMC, along with a US$242 million loan from the European Investment Bank backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

ACT-A initially needed US$38.1 billion for 2020-2021; following an early February Facilitation Council meeting, ACT-A announced that the remaining funding gap was US$27.2 billion.

Following the new contributions announced at the G7 meeting, the total committed to ACT-A to date was US$10.3 billion and the funding gap was brought down to US$22.9 billion, according to the WHO press release.

Press release - WHO

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Under Spain’s leadership, Sahel Alliance General Assembly adopts resolution to foster regional sustainable development

On February 16, 2020, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), Arancha González Laya, chaired the second General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance that took place in N’Djamena, Chad, to review the current situation of the region and advance coordination to effectively address the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result of this meeting, the Sahel Alliance adopted a joint statement aimed at improving the living conditions of populations in the Sahel in a sustainable manner and guaranteeing equal access to essential services. Among other measures, it underlines the need to strengthen actions addressing the COVID-19 crisis, rural development, food security, climate change adaptation, and gender equality in the Sahel region.  

González Laya stated that the Sahel Alliance is committed to working towards post-COVID-19 recovery, strengthening public health services, as well as achieving inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

Created in July 2017, the Sahel Alliance is a regional organization that gathers the G5 Sahel member states—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad—in addition to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, and EU institutions. Since June 2020, Spain holds the presidency of the Sahel Alliance for a one-year period.

Press release – MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Joint statement – General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance

New Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi swears in governing coalition and cabinet, appoints Italy's first-ever Minister of Ecological Transition

Led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy's new government was sworn in on February 13, 2021. Draghi's coalition, composed of politicians and independent technocrats, is supported by a large, multi-partisan majority in the Italian Parliament, including the Five Star Movement (M5S), the right-wing League (Lega), the center-right Forza Italia (FI), the center-left Democratic Party (PD), the centrist Italia Viva (IV), and the leftist Article One (Art.1).

In Draghi's cabinet, some roles were reconfirmed, such as Luigi Di Maio for Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Roberto Speranza as Health Minister; Luciana Lamorgese as Minister of the Interior; Dario Franceschini as Culture Minister; and Elena Bonetti as Gender Equality and Equal Opportunity Minister. Daniele Franco has been appointed as the new Ministry of the Treasury. Franco, a high-level Italian bureaucrat, previously served at the European Commission, Bank of Italy, and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Physicist Roberto Cingolanithe also was sworn in as the first-ever Minister of Ecological Transition to head a brand new ministry created by Draghi to ensure that a transition to green energy drives recovery from COVID-19 and makes full use of EU funds. In his role, Cingolani will take over energy matters previously shared with other ministries and combine them with a larger environmental portfolio.

The new government will face votes of confidence in both houses of Parliament on February 17 and 18. The confidence vote will be the first opportunity for Draghi to present his programmatic agenda for his government.

In the coming days, Draghi will appoint Vice Ministers, including the Vice Minister for International Cooperation. Draghi will also set up his advisors team, including his diplomatic advisor, G7, and G20 sherpa.

List of the Ministries - Presidency of the council of the Ministries

UK hosts first G7 finance ministers’ meeting, centering green recovery, support to vulnerable countries, jobs protections, taxes on digital economy

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting on February 12, 2021. The UK Chancellor for the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, led the meeting by calling upon his counterparts – the Finance Ministers and Central Governors from France, Italy, Germany, Canada, the US, and Japan – to ensure a green recovery post-COVID-19 by putting the climate and nature at the center of all economic and financial decision-making in 2021.

Sunak also called for G7 countries to work with international institutions to enable vulnerable countries to manage the pandemic. This included supporting a rapid and fair vaccine distribution, and supporting debt relief, with a call for private-sector creditors to help ensure sustainable debt treatment to the poorest countries and ensure access to credit and grants for low-income countries.

Sunak also called for the G7 finance ministers to focus in the year ahead on protecting jobs and reaching a global solution to the tax challenges created by the digitalization of the economy.

The meeting comes ahead of the UK’s first G7 virtual leaders meeting on February 19, 2021.

Press release - UK government

News article - Devex

ACT-A Facilitation Council announces funding gap of US$27.2 billion, asks countries not to compete with COVAX vaccine contracts

The Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) had its fourth meeting on February 9, 2021, to discuss its 2021 agenda and needs, including closing the funding gap of US$27.2 billion for 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, co-hosted and began his introductory remarks by welcoming the newly-joined US under President Joe Biden to ACT-A. 

Ghebreyesus stressed that more than 90% of countries currently administering COVID-19 vaccines are wealthy, and 75% of all doses given have been given in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries, he said, have not administered a single dose.

ACT-A and the COVAX Facility were created as part of global efforts coordinated by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among others, in order to increase access to vaccines and promote vaccine equity internationally, and these goals are being threatened, said Ghebreyesus.

He called for:

  1. Full financing of ACT-A and COVAX: The financing gap is at more than US$27.2 billion for 2021. He called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing and to unlock capital in multilateral development banks to help close the gap.
  2. Respect for COVAX contracts from all countries and a non-competition commitment: He referred here to countries who continue to sign bilateral vaccine deals while many nations have no vaccine doses at all. Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO's goal that the vaccination of health workers should be in progress in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021, which means that countries with more doses need to share and donate doses before going on to vaccinate their lower-risk populations. He warned that if COVID-19 is not suppressed globally, that variants of the virus could result in the world "back at square one".
  3. An urgent increase in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines: This could include "innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks".

Experts have warned that all countries need to take an "internationalist", not nationalist, approach to vaccination rollout and tacking COVID-19, otherwise experts fear that some low-income countries may not receive vaccines until 2024.

Visuals from the 'ACT-A Prioritized Strategy & Budget for 2021' presentation illustrate the contributors of a total of US$6.0 billion to ACT-A, as of February 3, and the breakdown of the US$27.2 billion needed for 2021. According to an update as of February 12, ACT-A has an additional US$4.0 billion in projected funding, so the US$27.2 billion funding gap "will be reduced to US$23.2 billion as projected funds are operationalized."

Transcript - WHO

Event website - WHO

UK should ensure G7 summit shows "Western unity", finds solutions to climate and health crises, includes more African leaders, says think tank

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), a UK security think tank, has published an article arguing for the UK government to focus on four key issues at the G7 summit that the country is hosting this year:

  1. Showing "Western unity": After limited US engagement during the Trump administration, RUSI called for the G7 summit to focus on the display of strong unity between the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and the EU, the current G7 members. While the UK government’s invitations to India, Australia, and South Korea as guests to the G7 summit in 2021 is welcome, RUSI argued that its keenness to permanently expand the G7 to include these countries and create a 'G10' risks causing divisions. RUSI particularly referred to India's differing foreign policy relationships.
  2. Addressing the twin crises of our time, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic: RUSI also calls for the G7 to ensure that as hard times fall, that world does not turn its back on globalization and resort to economic nationalism, by showing that the solution to these crises requires collective action, for example, by promoting a collaborative approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  3. Recognizing the strategic significance of "sub-Saharan Africa" by belatedly inviting African leaders to key G7 meetings: RUSI noted that the UK government’s failure to invite African leaders to the summit, as has been the case for the last five G7 summits, along with the steep cut in UK development assistance, risks signalling that an Indo-Pacific "tilt" comes at the expense of Africa. According to RUSI, it is not too late to remedy the situation by inviting key African leaders to certain G7 meetings.
  4. Tackling threats to liberal democracy posed by populism and extremism: RUSI wrote that many of the threats are transnational in nature and require common and coordinated responses. 

The UK government also launched its G7 youth engagement initiative, 'Y7', which aims to gather youth leaders from around the world to enable their voices to be heard and to ensure that the G7 helps build a greener and more prosperous world for all in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - RUSI

Italy supports Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund in response to crisis due to conflict in Tigray region

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced that it donated €500,000 (US$608,349) to the “Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund”. 

Established in 2006, the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund (EHF) is a multi-donor fund managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to provide humanitarian support in the country.

The money will be used to provide food security, health care, and protection, especially in the Tigray region where a recent conflict has resulted in a humanitarian crisis.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation