Global Health Summit Issues a “Rome Declaration” Cloaked in Green

The Global Health Summit on May 21-24 in Rome was more of a propaganda stunt for the EU and global multinational institutions than anything else. It was co-sponsored by the Italian Presidency of the Group of 20, and the EU Commission, with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presiding.

At the end, the so-called “Rome Declaration” of principle was issued. It is a verbose five-page statement, full of commendable intentions such as “large-scale, global, safe, effective and equitable vaccination in combination with appropriate other public health measures remains our top priority,” or “achieving Universal Health Coverage with primary healthcare at its center,” but the document utterly lacked the sense of urgency required to defeat the pandemic over one year after its outbreak.

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson announced they will provide 2.3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for low-income countries at not-for-profit pricing, as well as for middle-income nations at “low cost” by 2022. Additionally, Germany, France and Italy announced donations of vaccines from their stocks this year. However, all this does not fill the gap in funding for anti-COVID-19 action, which is estimated at $18.6 billion worldwide, e.g. of $6 billion for oxygen, and so on.

In the final press conference by Draghi and von der Leyen, the latter proclaimed that “climate change, the loss of biodiversity and human activity” are one of “the breeding grounds for the forces that bring forth the pandemic”. More than once, she lauded the Rome Summit for producing, for the first time, a multinational agreement on a “One Health” approach.

Though that latter expression can have several meanings, von der Leyen’s is “ultra-green”, referring to the combined condition of human, animal, plant, Earth and climate considerations, in which human lives do not come first. In fact, in this view, human activity must be cut back, because it has extended too far into the animal and plant world, and harms diversity, while breeding disease.

Promising to help poor countries to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic while at the same time pushing a green agenda that includes a scheme to finance African countries that agree to forego economic development lacks any credibility (cf. SAS 18/21).

As to the aid pledged at the conference, international health operators and organizations exposed their inadequacy. The summit, overall, provided “too little, without the needed urgency of action,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, in an email. “Commitments should be brought forward to enable sharing and delivery of doses in days to weeks, not months to years,” he continued.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam Health Policy Manager and Policy colead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance noted that “World leaders talked eloquently about the bottle-necks that are limiting vaccine manufacturing and supply, and the gross inequalities today of global vaccinations, but their solutions remain the same tired ones that have failed billions of people who remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection ahead.”

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