Editorial Board (The Jakarta Post)
Fri 28 January 2022
In what appears to be an expression of dissatisfaction with the World Health Organization, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told the World Economic Forum (WEF) last week that Indonesia would strive to to help strengthen the global health security architecture, which he considered too complex and fragmented.
Speaking in a virtual dialogue with WEF Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab on January 20, Jokowi reiterated that current global collaboration, such as the COVAX facility, are only temporary solutions to this pandemic. WHO’s roles, meanwhile, have yet to cover many issues that are clearly strategic to people’s daily lives. A permanent solution, which would allow the world to better cope with future health emergencies, is therefore necessary.
In Jokowi’s mind, the permanent solution takes the form of a new body that would coordinate global health resources to finance, for example, global health emergencies and the purchase of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment. . The body would formulate standardized global health protocols, including for cross-border travel. The new body would also be responsible for building the capacity of local manufacturers in developing countries, particularly in the management of intellectual property rights, self-sufficiency in the supply of pharmaceutical and health equipment and access to technology. .
The International Monetary Fund is a good example of how coordination of global financial resources is crucial to support countries in crisis, Jokowi said. Therefore, the establishment of this new global health fund will be one of Indonesia’s priorities during its chairmanship of the Group of 20 (G20).
Jokowi’s proposal reflects the concerns of many countries about the weakness of the global health system, as evidenced by the unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines between poor and rich countries. It was estimated that around 80 countries were unlikely to meet the WHO target of a minimum vaccination coverage of 40% by the end of 2021.
With the apparent benefits of a global health fund, there should be no objection among developed countries to supporting this joint initiative, Jokowi said during the dialogue. Under Indonesia’s leadership, he said, the G20 would play a crucial role in advancing the development of a robust global health security architecture, where, as a first step, there must be a joint agreement between the member states of the group.
While respecting the work done by the WHO, the COVID-19 crisis shows how fragile the current global health system is. The global body has also suggested more sustainable funding from member countries to help it better fulfill its mandate.
To be sure, Jokowi’s call for a reset of the global health architecture, including his proposal for a global health fund, still needs detailed wording. What the new body will look like remains unclear to many of us. But one thing is certain, the global health system needs to be strengthened to ensure it is effective in mitigating a crisis whenever it strikes, and more importantly preventing it from happening in the first place.
The COVID-19 pandemic should be the starting point for systematic and fundamental change in the global health system. Countries need a new global framework to effectively support their prevention and control measures against future pandemics. Better pandemic preparedness requires investment and must start now.
The G20 summit in Bali in October this year will be a perfect time for Jokowi’s call for concrete answers.