Paulo M. Buss* and Santiago Alcázar**
The G7 summit wraps up an important cycle of top-level meetings to evaluate and propose directions for the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Preceded by the G20 Summit on Global Health and the World Health Assembly, both held during the second half of May, the G7 Summit took place last week in Carbsi Bay, Cornwell, United Kingdom, the first to be held after the Trump era.
One of the priority topics was the pandemic. The world had high expectations for the summit, attended by chiefs of State and of government of seven of the world’s largest economies, holders of about 60% of the planet’s wealth and of 35% of the GDP, while being home to only 10% of the world’s population. They are also responsible for 60% of total carbon emissions and for 50% of the doses of COVID-19 vaccines acquired to this moment. Other subjects addressed in the summit were the climate crisis and COP26, which will be held next November, in Glasgow, and national and global taxation of multinational activities throughout the planet. While the G7 summit passed the last two subjects with flying colors, it left much to be desired in the subject of the pandemic and global health. In an unheard-of move, the WHO, the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank published together a statement on the Washington Post, asking the G7 to release US$ 50 billion so that all of the world’s country could, via WHO, vaccinate at least 40% of their target populations against the coronavirus by December 2021, and up to 60% by mid-2022. This would require 11 billion doses. A part of these resources would also be employed on equipment for assistance, protection and prevention, such as oxygen, hospital equipment and support drugs.
By the end of the summit, the G7 announced the donation of only 1 billion doses up to the end of 2022, not nearly close to the amount and deadline originally requested. The summit also failed to respond to the request of US$ 50 billions, nor did it mention a loosening of patent rights; there was nothing more than a brief and cold nod at a partnership with other WTO members, to “come up with pragmatic, effective and holistic long-term solutions for trade in health”.
Well, if the world’s richest nations refuse to finance vaccination for the poorest counterparts, even if that meant buying vaccines from their own national companies and therefore leaving the money in their own developed markets, who else can do it? We have long been aware that there is little fiscal leeway in the budgets of at least 100 of the world’s poorest countries to be used in social expenses, buried as these nations are in huge external debts and immense demands regarding food and other essential and primary conditions involved in the maintenance of life.
The statement on health released by the G7 is 16 paragraphs and 2,015 words long; the word “patent” does not feature among them at all. On the other hand, the group was not generous as for the donated doses and played dumb when the subject was bringing in the necessary and required financial resources. However, it took up a future commitment to implement a series of new measures, a veritable lesson on good purposes in terms of multilateralism and on public health and infectious diseases. Another entry for the future agenda is a commitment with a set of recommendations contained in the document called “100 Days Mission”, to be taken after the declaration of a public health emergency by the world’s public health authority, the World Health Organization. It is hard to believe that all of today’s resplendent proposals, chanted among the crystal-clear blue waters of Carbis Bay, will actually be made true later on, as G7 was silent as for the simple, concrete and actual measures that must be implemented on an urgent basis, today, to fight the pandemic whose severeness it acknowledges.
*Coordinator of the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/FIOCRUZ). **Senior adviser of the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/FIOCRUZ).
This article was originally published in the newspaper O Globo