10 November 2022

Report launch: Governance of early warning and response for pandemics|Press release

11 November 2022|Press release

Report launch: Governance of early warning and response for pandemics

The Paris Peace Forum will publish the 11 November 2022 a groundbreaking report entitled “People, politics and the governance of early warning and response for pandemics”, looking at the political conditions to identify early and respond to a health threat to avoid another pandemic. Learning from important field work on the detection of the Omicron variant in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021, and drawing on dozens of interviews with decisive actors from the first lab that detected the new virus to those at the heart of the global response, the report contains novel findings on the trust deficit between North and South, the role of scientific networks, effective communication of scientific findings and new models to finance pandemic preparedness. The PPF provides a set of recommendations to strengthen health ecosystems in the global South by incentivizing scientific discovery which is crucial for pandemic preparedness.

Pandemics, although they arise from a health threat, are a function of social, political, and geopolitical dynamics. Lots has been written about better preparing the world for next pandemic. But even better would be to avoid a novel pathogen from becoming a pandemic in the first place. That’s where fast and trustworthy mechanisms to share vital intelligence on health threats, orchestrated from local to regional and global levels, are crucial. COVID-19 has demonstrated how these structures for reporting of disease threats cannot escape politization, hence the importance of thinking politically about early warning to respond more decisively in future.

Building on the lessons learned from the detection of the Omicron variant in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021, the report focuses on better navigating political trade-offs between sovereignty, local and national interests and global health security. Our case study shows that that the failure of vaccine solidarity during the Covid pandemic is limiting interest in the Global South towards current negotiations to reform the global health architecture. Interlocutors are primarily looking for independence in future pandemic response beyond simple early warning and are now dedicated to building thriving R&D and production ecosystems in the Global South.

The report focuses also on scientific networks and their role in communicating around health threats. Scientists and authorities remain and will be committed to transparently sharing their work with relevant decision-makers and their colleagues through appropriate networks and databases. However, our work shows how mission-driven scientists independent from political decision-making are crucial to identifying a health threat early, and that their capacities to do so are stretched and threatened by a lack of resources and a risk of brain drain. Effective communication of scientific findings is another decisive part of early warning and response, as bad messaging can terribly hurt the general public’s trust in guidance.

In this report, the PPF provides a series of recommendations to rebuild trust between North and South through a redistribution of power in global institutions, but also to protect and enhance scientific networks and cooperation while establishing communication as a critical function of scientific institutions. Moreover, the Forum is proposing options to secure new models to finance pandemic preparedness, through mechanisms to fairly compensate scientific discovery and contributions to innovation, including a better sharing of benefits between researchers identifying new threats on the field and the industry.

Join the roundtable discussion and report launch at the Paris Peace Forum, 11 November 2022 at 13:15 CET in Room 1, Palais Brongniart