G20 agrees on global fund to deal with future pandemics

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Health and finance ministers from the G20 group of the world’s major economies agreed to set up a permanent global fund to prepare for future pandemics, Indonesia’s finance minister said on Tuesday.

The ministers and senior officials met in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta to hammer out the details of the Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF), which will be jointly managed by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The FIF establishment is now being finalized,” Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said at a press conference at the end of the meeting.

“I believe that the board of the World Bank will meet on June 30. By that time, if it is approved by the board, then this FIF will start to operate,” she said.

The United States, the European Union, Indonesia, Germany, Singapore and the London-based charitable foundation Wellcome Trust have already pledged contributions amounting to $1.1 billion, she said. Singapore is not a G20 member, but it was invited as a guest to the meetings.

“This is a major step forward in our collective effort for better pandemic prevention and response,” Sri Mulyani said in a speech opening the meeting.

“We have made significant progress,” she said.

Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said money was only half a solution to a global health crisis.

“We need to translate this money into quick and just access to emergency medical countermeasures, like vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,” he said in his opening speech.

The series of meetings kicked off on Monday with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issuing a warning to countries not to be complacent about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that risks of dangerous new variants remained real.

It is “misguided” to think the pandemic is over, he said.

“(The) WHO remains very concerned that the lack of testing and sequencing is blinding us to the evolution of the virus,” Tedros said.

“Our goal is for all G20 countries to pledge contributions to the fund because we aim to mobilize $15 billion,” Indonesian Health Ministry spokesperson Nadia Tarmizi said at a press conference on Monday.

“(The) WHO remains very concerned that the lack of testing and sequencing is blinding us to the evolution of the virus,” Tedros told the meeting held in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

Representatives of Western countries started their remarks by condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Andrea Palm, deputy secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, said Russia’s actions in Ukraine have placed “undue stress on the global health architecture, as well as on food security.”

“Far from promoting global health, Russia’s actions have disrupted health services destroyed health facilities and continue to strike buildings where innocent civilians, including children, are sheltering,” she said.

For his part, Russia’s deputy health minister Oleg Salagay accused some participants of “politicizing” the meeting.

“We are asking our colleagues not to politicize the G20 health platform and stay within our mandate and discuss health care,” he told the meeting.

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