Working together to fight Covid-19 globally is in all our interests
Ville Skinnari and six other development ministers call for a coordinated international response to coronavirus. The joint statement was published on Maundy Thursday in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
The world is in shock. Covid-19 respects no borders. Other global crises exist, such as climate change, but this pandemic poses a more immediate threat to our health and lives.
As the virus spreads across the globe, its dire development, economic and humanitarian consequences are increasingly apparent. Experiences from other infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola show that underlying societal problems – notably inequality, poverty and conflict – make the situation worse.
The impact is already felt and will deepen. Poor and fragile countries will be hit the hardest because of their healthcare systems. Women, in particular, will face greater financial, social and health pressures, and a greater risk of violence.
But our motivation on this goes beyond solidarity with less developed economies. Global action on Covid-19 is a must if we want to protect our own populations and economies. We must deal with our own national situations, but it is paramount we also engage in the global, multilateral response. The weakness of developing countries’ healthcare systems is one of the biggest risks to the global spread of the virus.
To increase our impact, both financial and on the ground, close cooperation between us all – both EU and non-EU countries – is crucial. This is why all international partners, including the UN and its agencies, should do their utmost to help fight the pandemic, mitigate its consequences, strengthen preparations and improve our chances of recovery.
We will prioritise action in the following areas:
The immediate response. A strong, coordinated, early response helping the most vulnerable countries is essential. Supporting the multilateral system and frontline partners through core-funding is one of the most efficient ways to do this. We fully support the World Health Organization in its role as global leader and coordinator of the health-related Covid-19 response, and recognize the importance of other global health organisations like Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid. We strongly support the UN Secretary-General’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan to help the most vulnerable people, already in the midst of humanitarian crises, especially refugees and internally displaced persons.
Solutions for everyone. An effective global response must include access to a vaccine, new treatments and testing for all. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has a key role in developing a vaccine, as do our own countries’ researchers. We should work together to create a vaccine as quickly as possible and make it available to everyone, not just those with purchasing power. The expertise and global reach of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will be critical. We should not neglect responding to other critical health issues.
Closing financing gaps. Together with the UN and other international organisations we must quickly deploy an international, efficiently-coordinated and comprehensive package of economic, as well as health, nutrition and social measures. We call on all official creditors to work together and with the World Bank and IMF to explore the option of a temporary debt service relief on repayments due from the least developed, most vulnerable countries. We must commit and mobilize additional resources beyond Official Development Assistance if we want to truly increase countries’ resilience to coronavirus. The private sector will play a critical role in finding innovative solutions and mobilising capital to keep trade and supply chains going, benefitting developed and developing countries alike. This will help sustain economies and ultimately help build them back.
Leaving no one behind. We must ensure populations hit the hardest get immediate assistance to develop social protection as well as accessible, quality health and nutrition services. We look particularly to the UN, the World Bank and the IMF to lead on this. We must protect the most vulnerable, including women and girls. Education should remain a priority. Gavi’s replenishment later this year is also vital. We need routine immunisation for the millions affected by this pandemic in the poorest countries. In the longer term, we must redouble efforts to achieve better social security and Universal Health Coverage worldwide.
Sticking to principles. Important, hard-won lessons from the fight against HIV and Ebola are clear: our efforts and responses must be guided by principles of equality, including on gender, inclusivity, human rights and international law. We commit to championing these principles and expect partners to share them. The media, activists, civil society as well as independent experts all have a role to play in informing our response.
Rebutting false stories. Countries have to respond to Covid-19 in their own way, but we will continue to advocate for an open, transparent, responsible, honest approach. We will also robustly tackle mis- and disinformation, counting on international partners to actively do the same.
Building back better. We have a chance to strengthen global health security. Investing in epidemiological surveillance in all countries is an obvious place to start. But this could also be the opportunity to move away from today’s predominantly narrow focus on illness and disease, a first step towards truly thinking about the connection between healthy lives, healthy societies and a healthy environment – and our best protection against future pandemics.
Thinking long-term from the start. The epidemic’s socio-economic consequences will be devastating. Already, millions have lost their jobs. We must take this opportunity to think longer term, focusing on climate and resilience, green jobs and energy, better social protection and governance. We endorse the UN Secretary General’s call for the recovery strategy to keep us on track towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We also join his call for a global ceasefire.
We commit to work for these objectives, using and mobilizing political will, technical know-how and financial resource. We call on all countries to join this common endeavour. Tackling this disease together is our only option.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan (United Kingdom)
Peter Eriksson (Sweden)
Gerd Müller (Germany)
Rasmus Prehn (Denmark)
Ville Skinnari (Finland)
Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson (Iceland)
Dag Inge Ulstein (Norway)