Devex Newswire: How WHO needs to change before the next pandemic

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An independent panel led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is out with recommendations for how to strengthen the World Health Organization and prevent the next pandemic.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response has unveiled its report on how global health policies and institutions need to change in order to prevent a repeat of the COVID-19 crisis. The panel will present the data in full at the World Health Assembly later this month. Jenny Lei Ravelo breaks down the report’s key findings.

• The report calls for a Global Threats Council “that will maintain political commitment to pandemic preparedness and response and hold actors accountable, including through peer recognition and scrutiny.”

• This council would be in charge of the proposed International Pandemic Financing Facility, which would raise $5 billion to $10 billion per year to support pandemic preparedness efforts for a period of 10-15 years.

• The panel wants to see a more independent WHO that can publish information on outbreaks immediately without countries’ approval, and dispatch experts to investigate at short notice. That would require changes to the International Health Regulations, which the report describes as a “conservative instrument” that constrains rapid action rather than facilitating it.

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Read: WHO 'needs more powers' says independent panel co-chair Helen Clark

(DOWN) UNDER BUDGETING

While most aid donors do everything they can to appear as generous as possible, Australia is taking the opposite approach — separating out its “temporary” COVID-19 funding to ensure its official development assistance budget stays below a spending cap decided in 2019.

Australia’s 2021-2022 assistance program includes an additional AU$335.3 million ($262 million) of “temporary” assistance for COVID-19, Lisa Cornish reports, but the government’s unwillingness to adjust the overall budget upwards in light of worsening regional fallout from the pandemic has alarmed some aid advocates.

Read: Australia’s 2021 aid budget focuses on past promises

Devex Pro: How will Australia’s aid budget impact partners and deliverables? For DFAT’s partners, understanding the long-term objectives are important — but the four-page budget summary provides little clarity on the information required.

DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER

Australia’s cuts pale in comparison to those of the United Kingdom. While not the most enjoyable saga to relive, Will Worley, who has been on the U.K. aid story since the very beginning, has put together a new timeline to track a global development leader’s steady decline.

IMPLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY

“You can’t just pin this and say you have one field operation that went badly wrong. It does reflect a culture as well … This is in some sense the tip of an iceberg.”

 — WHO emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan, discussing sexual abuse during the Ebola response in DRC

AP reported Tuesday that senior-level officials at WHO were aware of sexual abuse allegations against their employees working on the Ebola response in DRC. In September, the New Humanitarian and Thomson Reuters Foundation documented allegations from 51 women, many of whom said they were offered employment in exchange for sex.

MAKING WAVES

Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted is this year’s World Food Prize recipient.

Thilsted, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, is the global lead for nutrition and public health at WorldFish, a Malaysian research center that focuses on scaling sustainable aquatic food systems.

Thilsted speaks to Teresa Welsh about the need to ensure aquatic food systems also have a place at the table.

Tune in to Tackling malnutrition: Improving both food and health systems, today at 9:30 a.m. ET (3:30 p.m. CET).

POWER PLAY

The most interesting line in USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s new interview with the Washington Post: “I think you could start to see a recalibration in terms of what the different agencies do and where some of these authorities lie.”

The high-profile USAID chief is now in her second week on the job, while President Joe Biden has yet to name the heads of other U.S. development agencies such as the Millennium Challenge Corp., the Development Finance Corp., or PEPFAR, the global AIDS initiative. Are U.S. development agencies primed for a shakeup?

IN OTHER NEWS

U.N. special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been named to replace Mark Lowcock as humanitarian aid chief. [Foreign Policy]

An analysis of more than 800 cities around the world reveals that nearly half do not have climate adaptation plans. [France 24]

Travel agents say thousands of Latin Americans are flying to the U.S. to get a COVID-19 vaccine, after disappointing rollouts in their own countries. [Reuters]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.