The eyes of the world are on Britain this week.
From June 11, some of the most powerful politicans on the planet will gather in Cornwall, as the UK hosts the G7 Summit where the pressure is on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to show bold leadership with amibitious commitments to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a host of more than 100 former prime ministers, presidents, and foreign ministers, that means the world's wealthiest countries stepping up to fill a funding gap to get tests, treatments, and vaccines to low-income countries.
Previous UK prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are among the 230 figures who have signed an open letter addressed to G7 countries including Britain.
Right now there is a $66 billion (£46.6 billion) funding gap to vaccinate low-income countries against the virus, and the letter is calling on G7 countries — made up of the UK, US, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, and Japan — to contribue to two-thirds of that.
Although Johnson tweeted on Saturday that he would use the G7 Summit to "ask my fellow leaders to help vaccinate the world by the end of next year", he has made similar promises before.
In Febuary, he pledged to G7 leaders that the UK would donate all its surplus vaccines to low-income countries. Four months on, and not a single vaccine has been shared.
“The year 2020 witnessed a failure of global cooperation, but 2021 can usher in a new era," the letter reads, according to the Guardian, which has seen the letter ahead of the summit. "No one anywhere is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe everywhere."
It adds: “Support from the G7 and G20 that makes vaccines readily accessible to low- and middle-income countries is not an act of charity, but rather is in every country’s strategic interest, and as described by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] is ‘the best public investment in history.'”
Indeed, Brown called their plan “the best insurance policy in the world” — costing the equivalent of just 30p per person per week for every person in the UK. By 2025, Brown said bold action now could save around $9 trillion.
Former PM Gordon Brown says 'we need to vaccinate the world, we're not safe until everyone is', adding the government needs to have a plan on how to vaccinate other countries, 'not just a wing and a prayer and a few doses left over'.#KayBurleyhttps://t.co/18TN2tpRvEpic.twitter.com/cxGjZCW6uw— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 7, 2021
The letter highlights polling that found that majority of British public believes the UK government should share COVID-19 vaccines.
Research commissioned by Global Citizen, Save the Children, the Wellcome Trust, and the ONE Campaign, found that 76% of people agreed the UK was at risk while the virus was thriving elsewhere in the world, and 67% believed that the UK should share vaccines immediately.
Former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon was also among the signatories for the letter, as well as former Irish President Mary Robinson and 15 former African leaders, including ex-presidents FW de Klerk of South Africa, John Mahama of Ghana, and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, according to the Guardian.
The funding from G7 countries would go to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a facility set up to get tests, treatments, and vaccines to the world's poorest countries and also manages the COVAX programme. You can find out more about how it works here.
In addition to addressing the funding gap, the letter asks G7 leaders to step up on sharing surplus vaccines and temporarilty waive intellectual property rights on vaccines so low-income countries, making the rest of this year “a turning point in global cooperation”.
Global Citizen is also calling on Boris Johnson to use the G7 Summit as an opportunity to commit to a timeline to donate its 100 million surplus vaccines, and work with other world leaders to get at least 1 billion vaccines doses to low-income countries by September, and 2 billion doses by the end of the year. Join us and take action here.
.@BorisJohnson promised Britain would donate all its surplus vaccines.— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) June 7, 2021
That was four months ago. So far, 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐯𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐝.
Ahead of the #G7 Summit in Cornwall this week, call on the PM to keep his word: https://t.co/7DNy3ZKFYxpic.twitter.com/2XrVveenB8