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The impact we seek: The world is prepared for future pandemics, through a transformed multilateral system that is sustainably financed, inclusive, transparent and equitably governed.

The Issue

Pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) efforts at the multilateral level are sluggish and fragmented, despite the experience of COVID-19. As the probability of a novel disease outbreak is likely to triple in the next few decades, it is vital to mobilise political will on a global scale to tackle this existential threat. The politicisation of COVID-19, vaccine inequality, and the failure of so many national COVID-19 responses have eroded trust in public health leadership. Action and reforms are needed now if the world is to be ready for the next, potentially more severe, pandemic.

“We urgently need a global system fit for purpose to prevent virus outbreaks from becoming full-blown pandemics and global crises.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Member of The Elders
Former President of Liberia & Nobel Peace Laureate

Our Priorities

We are advocating for a robust global PPR agenda that should be treated as a global public good, requiring global public investment. We believe tackling pandemics must involve all parts of society, government, and the economy, and that resilient and publicly funded health systems based on the principles of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) are crucial.

We want to see action on the following:

The Army and Air National Guard support COVID-19 efforts in the USA, 2020. Photo: U.S. Army National Guard/ Sgt. Amouris Coss

Strong global political leadership from heads of state and government on pandemics is aligned with the recommendations of recent independent panels 

The Elders are pushing for a standing high-level pandemic leadership body that can hold governments accountable to their PPR commitments, monitor progress made by the World Health Organization, and mobilise resource allocation. We support a strengthened WHO which includes effective international health regulations and increased assessed contributions.

Pandemic financing is transformed, in particular through equitable governance

The Elders seek to influence the design and deployment of pandemic financing instruments to ensure they are rooted in equity and shared responsibility. These include the newly-created Pandemic Fund housed at the World Bank as well as financing from the International Monetary Fund, regional development banks, and private foundations.

The Elders visit ZSFG Hospital in the USA, 2018.
COVID-19 testing in Madagascar, 2020. Photo: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia

A clear set of global policies which ensure equity and rights in pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

The Elders are pushing for a Pandemic Treaty and other global policies and agreements that address systemic barriers to equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Greater regional manufacturing of these medical countermeasures should be supported by all stakeholders. We highlight the need for fair and unified global pandemic surveillance platforms that reward countries identifying potential pandemic pathogens. We also call for greater consideration by policymakers of the economic and social conditions that put the burden of care on women, both in families and in the health workforce.

Our Approach

The Elders provide a moral voice for pandemic leadership that seeks to cut through the technical jargon and rise above the political infighting and nationalism that can obstruct the emergence of a robust global PPR agenda. 

Our advocacy supports recommendations put forward by both the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), and the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), focused on leadership, governance and financing.

“Our multilateral system has to take things seriously, not only the Sustainable Development Goals, but also the security aspect of the [COVID-19] tragedy. Another pandemic like this one could appear or be even worse.”

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Member of The Elders
First woman Prime Minister of Norway

More on our Pandemics work


Charter for Equitable, Inclusive and Sustainable UHC

In December 2022, The Elders launched a Charter for Equitable, Sustainable and Inclusive Universal Health Coverage to conclude six years of global advocacy on UHC.

The Charter is comprised of five fundamental precepts:

  1. Genuine Universality
  2. Effective and Equitable Insurance
  3. Public Financing
  4. Efficient Delivery of High Quality Services
  5. Progressive Realisation

The Charter, developed by Ernesto Zedillo with the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, distills The Elders’ policy insights and recommendations, and provides a bedrock for our current and future work on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response.

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