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The G7's Substantial Success on Health

Meagan Byrd and Gurleen Mann, G7 Research Group
June 14, 2021

The G7 Cornwall Summit proved to be a substantial success on health. The United Kingdom took over the G7 presidency in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, thus placing health at the top of the summit agenda.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020, UK prime minister Boris Johnson outlined a five-point plan "to protect humanity against another pandemic like COVID-19." The five-point plan seeks to:

  1. Stop a new disease before it starts
  2. Develop the manufacturing capacity for the treatments and vaccines
  3. Design a global pandemic early warning system
  4. Secure supply chains
  5. Cancel tariffs on the vital tools of the struggle (i.e., personal protective equipment)

In the months following his UN speech, Johnson announced he would host a G7 virtual summit on February 19, 2021, to "ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world." That summit produced eight precise, future-oriented and politically binding commitments on health. The Virtual Summit marked a strong start for G7 action on health.

The G7 health ministers met in Oxford on June 4, where they reaffirmed the "importance of international collaboration on health, in the context of a significant global crisis." They produced a 11,617-word communique highlighting the four key pillars of global health security, antimicrobial resistance, clinical trials and digital health.

The G7 health ministers meeting prior to their leaders' summit in Cornwall was promising, given that the four previous summits with prior health ministerial meetings had an average 11% higher compliance on the leaders' health commitments than those summits without pre-summit ministerial meetings.

The question remaining ahead of the Cornwall Summit was how much of the health ministers communiqué would be endorsed or adopted by the leaders' communiqué.

Summit Successes

The Cornwall Summit's successes on health included welcoming the 100 Days Mission, which seeks to have vaccinations, therapeutics and diagnostics available within 100 days of a declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), compared to the previous 300-day requirement. In welcoming this mission, G7 leaders recognized the need for enhanced cooperation between the private and public sectors in order for the 100 Days Mission to become reality.

In their G7 Carbis Bay Health Declaration G7 leaders also pledged to build a "resilient, integrated and inclusive global health system" to detect and prevent diseases and health threats globally and transparently. The Carbis Bay Health Declaration expanded on the communiqué, by recognizing the importance of response tools such as the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), in addition to the leaders agreeing to further develop medium- and long-term global health financing mechanisms for pandemic preparedness. The Carbis Bay Health Declaration reinforced the leaders' commitment to increasing global preparedness, transparency and accountability in global health and pandemic response, bringing the focus closer to global health than in pre-pandemic years.

The Carbis Bay Health Declaration also recognized the "devastating and disproportionate" effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, vulnerable and marginalized populations. This recognition came with a call for multilateral institutions, governments and the private sector to work collaboratively to "mitigate further strain on systems and communities," and regain lost development in these areas. The communiqué also touched on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic, emphasizing the links between the social determinants of health and health crises, and the need to ensure empowerment and leadership by women and minorities for greater inclusion and equity in health.

Both the communiqué and the Carbis Bay Health Declaration recognized the importance of advancing universal health coverage as part of the recognition of equitable access to health. However, this is only a general recognition of the work that remains to be done by the G7 in order to achieve this goal. Although was not a commitment, the leaders' mention of universal health coverage as a mechanism of achieving fair and accessible health is an important step to ensuring further action on health in the future.

What's Next for G7 Action on Health?

G7 members complied with the commitments they made at the Virtual Summit under the U.S. presidency on March 16, 2020, at an unusually high rate, particularly on health. Of the 11 health commitments assessed, 10 received complete compliance of 100%. This is likely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights the importance of the G7 members' actions in crises and the global arena. Although health was also a high priority at the 2021 Cornwall Summit, further action must be taken to advance health globally, particularly through future commitments on universal health coverage. Additionally, a G7 monitoring mechanism for health and health commitments may help ensure similar high-level compliance in future summits that are not responding to a pandemic, to continue advancing health systems globally.

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