G20 recovers together and stronger

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been reminded of the adage: Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it. Well, as a former banker, current health minister of Indonesia, and this year's chair of the G20 Health Track, I want to emphasize the importance of both health and the economy, and how they are interdependent.

Head of delegates prepare for a meeting on the last day of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 18, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been reminded of the adage: Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it. Well, as a former banker, current health minister of Indonesia, and this year's chair of the G20 Health Track, I want to emphasize the importance of both health and the economy, and how they are interdependent.

Earlier last week, I had the privilege and honor of presiding over the first G20 Health Ministerial Meeting and Joint Financial and Health Ministerial Meeting. Delegations from the world's 20 largest economies assembled in the special region of Yogyakarta in Indonesia to discuss how we can prevent, and better prepare for and respond to pandemics in the future.

I am pleased to announce the G20 member states have taken the first steps toward strengthening the global health system and ensuring the health and prosperity of all.

The G20's discussions at the first Health Ministerial Meetings focused on five priority areas.

First, the G20 has agreed to mobilize financial resources for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response by agreeing to establish a new Financial Intermediary Fund. The fund aims to fill the financial gap needed to properly respond to global health emergencies, which is estimated to be $10.5 billion and felt most sharply by low- and middle-income countries. Till now, the FIF has seen more than $1.1 billion being committed by several countries and organizations, with many more pledging to contribute in due course.

Second, the G20 member states have committed to working closely with the World Health Organization to establish a permanent coordinating platform that will work toward providing emergency medical countermeasures during health crises.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all witnessed firsthand the delays in the provision of protective personal equipment (PPE), testing and vaccines. We must learn from that experience and act accordingly, by having a coordination mechanism which is ready to timely and effectively respond to health crises in the future.

Third, the G20 countries expressed their support for the principle of global genomic data sharing, which has proven to be a key element of our collective efforts to monitor pathogens of concern-which have pandemic potential.

As chair of the G20 Health Track, I intend to take this agreement one step further to push for the establishment of a global network of genomic surveillance labs. This network should be facilitated by strengthened global data-sharing mechanisms, standards and protocols-all of which are the focus of ongoing discussions within the G20. This proposal will equip our global scientific community with the necessary data-sharing platforms needed to always be on the lookout for new viruses, which would in turn enable governments to respond quickly and effectively to any emerging health crisis.

Fourth, there has been important progress in the development of globally interoperable digital vaccine certificate verification mechanisms for international travelers. What this means is that international travelers, in the near future, may be able to verify their vaccination status using a single QR code that can be read and processed at any destination. This is certainly a step in the right direction, which will promote global mobility and accelerate global economic recovery. And I am happy to announce that a G20 pilot of the new system is already in the works.

Fifth, there is an increasing willingness among G20 countries to create an expanded network of research and manufacturing hubs for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics across the globe. Low- and middle-income countries often lack the ability to develop and supply medical treatments to their people in a timely and equitable way because of the concentration of research and manufacturing hubs in high-income countries. The G20's support for a more proportionate geographical distribution of these hubs will go a long way in ensuring that no country is left behind in future health crises.

In the midst of every crisis lies a great opportunity. In this case, it is the opportunity for G20 states to come together and build a stronger global health architecture for future generations. I have outlined above the encouraging first steps that we, the G20, have agreed to push forward to prevent, and better prepare for, and respond to, global health crises. And I will continue to work tirelessly with my counterparts across the G20 to continue this momentum.

But since our window to make lasting changes is narrow, I call on all my colleagues to seize this opportunity in the run-up to the G20 Leaders' Summit in November. Let us continue to make the necessary financial commitments, coordinate our collective efforts, share useful information, and be as inclusive as possible to bolster our efforts to recover together, and to recover stronger.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The author is the minister of health, Republic of Indonesia.

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