Statement by President von der Leyen following the Global Health Summit

(Source: European Commission)

Good afternoon,

Thank you Mario,

I am pleased to say that we had an excellent Summit. I would like to report on two strands. First, on the principles that we committed to: the Rome Declaration. And second, on what Europe brought to the table.

First on the Rome Declaration: It is the first time that the G20 leaders come together specifically on health. World leaders gave a strong message: Never again. We have learnt the lessons from the current crisis. And we are determined to make COVID-19 the last pandemic. So for the first time ever, all G20 countries agreed on common principles to overcome COVID-19 and to prevent and prepare for future pandemics. The U.S. and China. The EU and Russia. India, South Africa and Latin America. The Rome Declaration is a celebration of multilateralism. It is enshrined right away in the first principle.

But is it also a red thread throughout the whole Declaration. And why is that so important? This is a clear rejection of health nationalism by all G20 members. Let me give you just a few examples. In principle 4, the G20 commits to ‘open, resilient, diversified, secure, efficient and reliable global supply chains’. This means clearly: no export bans, no more bottlenecks. G20 has tasked a report by the WHO and WTO, by October – time bound for the next G20 Summit, addressing obstacles to equitable access to vaccines.

Then, in principle 2, the G20 acknowledges that the loss of biodiversity and the expansion of human activity into nature and wildlife bring us pandemics. It is a big step forward for the evidence-based One Health approach. This is reinforced by principle 11. With this, the G20 commits to set up early warning information, surveillance and trigger systems.

In other words, we learnt our lessons from the early days of the pandemic and the slow flow of information at the time. This will not happen again. Because everybody will set up a system now. And our systems will be interoperable.

They will cover new viruses, but also variants. So we will be able to detect them much quicker and act. We have also made an important step forward concerning ACT-Accelerator and COVAX. The entire G20 acknowledges now the need to address the ACT-Accelerator funding gap. The ACT-Accelerator has proven its worth. Therefore, we agreed to extend its mandate to the end of 2022.

The Rome Declaration, of course, also addresses the issue of intellectual property rights in relation to vaccines. The global community acknowledges that intellectual property is an instrument to boost manufacturing capacity. So the G20 committed to working on this thoroughly, within the existing TRIPS Agreement and the 2001 Doha Declaration.

Of course, voluntary licensing is the best way to ensure the necessary transfer of technology and know-how together with the IP rights. The existing TRIPS Agreement and the 2001 Doha Declaration already today foresee compulsory licensing, as a perfectly legitimate tool for governments to use in a crisis. This has been reconfirmed today by the G20. But I have been listening carefully to developing countries who are complaining about how difficult it is to use these flexibilities. This is something where the global community has to act to provide security and predictability.

The European Union will come forward with a proposal in the WTO to offer a third way in support of the Director-General of the WTO. Focusing on three components: Trade facilitation and disciplines on export restrictions; support for the expansion of production; on IP, clarifying and simplifying the use of compulsory licenses in crisis times like this pandemic, where necessary.

Allow me now to refer finally to two more key principles of the Rome Declaration: Equitable access to vaccines and support for low- and middle-income countries to develop manufacturing capacity. Team Europe will contribute both in the short and in the long term: First, in the short term, we will donate 100 million doses of vaccines to low and middle income countries, until the end of the year.

Second, we have worked with our European industrial partners – BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna and J&J – to make available vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries, rapidly. I am happy to report that our industrial partners pledged today 1,3 billion doses of vaccines in 2021 to low-income countries at production-cost and middle-income countries at low cost. In sum for this year: 1 billion doses from BioNTech-Pfizer, 200 million from J&J and around 100 from Moderna. On top, more than 1 billion doses are committed for 2022. Many of these doses will be delivered through COVAX.

 Finally, and that is my third point, Team Europe will invest to boost manufacturing capacity in Africa. Africa today imports 99% of the vaccines. This has to change. Team Europe is launching an initiative to develop with African partners vaccine production on their continent. This entails not only investment in infrastructure and production capacities. But also skills development, supply chains management, and the necessary regulatory framework.

The initiative will develop a number of regional hubs distributed across the continent. So that the whole of Africa can benefit. We will bring on board financing institutions and the private sector. We are already actively engaging in promising projects in for example South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda. Others will follow.

The initiative will draw on the full toolbox of Team Europe, including EUR 1 billion from EU budget and EU finance institutions. Several Member States are keen to join. We want to be the bridge to also bring mRNA technology to Africa. With G20’s commitments, and with Team Europe’s concrete contribution, I am confident that today, we have opened a new chapter in global health policy.

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