Advocacy Updates ~ April 5, 2021

April 05, 2021

Administration News

Gayle Smith to lead COVID-19 and global health security at State Department

On April 5, Secretary of State Antony Blinken named Gayle E. Smith as Coordinator for Global COVID Response & Health Security at the U.S. State Department. Gayle Smith, currently President and CEO of ONE Campaign, will be on temporary assignment to the State Department.

USAID releases Vision for Health System Strengthening 2030

On March 30, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released its Vision for Health System Strengthening 2030, which examines progress over the last decade, as well as new challenges, and reaffirms USAID’s long-term goal of building resilient health systems. The vision recognizes the criticality of integrated, systems-based approaches to health system strengthening, particularly in light of COVID-19. It aligns well with many of the priorities outlined in GHC’s New Vision for Global Health

U.S. to host launch of 2021 COVAX Investment Opportunity

On Thursday, April 15, the U.S. will co-host the launch of the Investment Opportunity for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The virtual convening will call on partners to join the U.S. in committing to accelerate global COVID-19 vaccinations. The U.S. has committed $2 billion to Gavi to support the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in 92 low-and middle-income countries through the COVAX AMC.

Congressional News

House committee passes amended Global Health Security Act

On March 25, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) passed the Global Health Security Act, which was passed by the House last year and reintroduced this year. The newly passed bill, re-introduced by Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Chabot (R-OH), includes updated language to reflect National Security Memorandum-1 and includes a directive to the administration to work with the international community to establish a new multilateral fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness.

WHO a topic at HFAC hearing on international organizations 

On March 23, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations and Global Corporate Social Impact held a hearing on United States Standing in International Organizations. The hearing focused on a range of issues, including the previous administration disengagement with United Nations agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO). In his opening statements, Chairman Joaquín Castro (D-TX) commended the Biden-Harris administration for rejoining WHO. In her opening statements, Ranking Member Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) criticized WHO for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and closeness to China.

Rep. Bass introduces resolution for international action to fight COVID-19 in Africa

On March 17, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, introduced a resolution calling for international action to fight COVID-19 in Africa. Notably, the resolution calls for “G-20 members, including the United States Government, to renew their global public investments and efforts to develop and distribute therapeutics and vaccines to address COVID–19 and prevent further deaths, and for other global health purposes, including continued support for the GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund, multilateral funding institutions, civil society, and new global collaboration initiatives, such as the Access to COVID–19 Tools ACT-Accelerator and the COVAX facility.”

International News

WHO releases study of SARS-CoV-2 origins amid calls for further study

On March 30, WHO published the report of the international field team that traveled to Wuhan, China from January 14-February 10, 2021 to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2 virus. This report is the product of a World Health Assembly resolution adopted by all Member States in May 2020 citing the need “to identify the zoonotic source” of SARS-CoV-2. In his remarks, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros noted that “this is a very important beginning” to find the origins of the virus and that “all hypotheses remain on the table.” The U.S. released a joint statement expressing shared concerns regarding the study of the COVID-19 pandemic origins noting that the study was “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.” The joint statement noted the study’s findings and urged momentum on the next phases of the investigation.

Global leaders call for international treaty on pandemic preparedness

On March 30, 25 heads of government and international organizations jointly called for the creation of a new international pandemic treaty to protect the world from future health crises. In the op-ed released by the global leaders, they state the main goal of the treaty would be “to foster an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics.” They posit such a treaty would be rooted in the constitution of WHO and leverage existing global health structures like the International Health Regulations. 

Carl Bildt appointed WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, was appointed as WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator. In this role, he will help lead advocacy for the ACT-Accelerator to mobilize support and resources to execute the 2021 strategy.

C7 Summit upcoming on April 19-20

Alongside this year’s G7 meetings, Bond, the UK-based network for organizations working in international development, has been appointed to coordinate the Civil Society 7 (C7). This summit will take place on April 19-20 to discuss a myriad of topics, including COVID-19 and health systems, and collaborate on a joint communiqué that will be fed into the meetings of the G7 countries. Global Health Council has been selected to participate in the C7 summit and has fed into the health recommendations developed by Bond and UK civil society. 

65th Commission on the Status of Women

From March 15-26, the sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place with mostly virtual convenings. The priority theme was women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life. Vice President Kamala Harris delivered remarks for the U.S. government delegation. She cited women’s struggle to access healthcare, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a major factor impacting women’s ability to participate in decision-making in public life. VP Harris recommitted to engaging with WHO and UN Women and noted that COVID-19 has threatened women’s access to health care and its potential to reverse the gains made in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition, and maternal and child mortality.

WHO to convene NSA session ahead of annual World Health Assembly

At the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board, the Board agreed that an informal meeting should be organized with non-state actors (NSA) in official relations with WHO to increase meaningful engagement between NSA, Member States and WHO technical units leading up to the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May. This virtual NSA session is to be held on a trial basis before a decision to hold such meetings regularly will be considered. The Executive Board also requested that the Secretariat consult with Member States and non-State actors to set the agenda for the trial meeting and that constituency statements would also be tested for selected WHA agenda items. There will be 2-3 hour sessions across each of the three days, April 20-22, with agendas that align with the thirteenth General Programme of Work and its three pillars. After the informal meeting in April 2021, a web-based consultation will be undertaken to get feedback from Member States, non-State across and WHO on the informal meeting to be reported to the 150th session of the Executive Board. As an NSA in official relations with WHO, GHC will be engaged in these sessions. Please stay tuned for more information on how GHC will engage at this year’s World Health Assembly and reach out to if you are interested in coordinating with us or learning more regarding the NSA session.