The text of the following statement is released by the Governments of the United States of America and Australia regarding progress towards health security cooperation to be discussed at the 2020 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) to be held on 28 July.
At no other time in recent history has collaboration been more critical to prevent, prepare and respond to the collective threat posed by infectious diseases and pandemics. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of the United States and Australia are taking joint action to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, including those of zoonotic (animal) origin particularly the Indo-Pacific region. COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population. The bilateral partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) remains vital to preventing the risks of future infectious diseases outbreaks and pandemics and their devastating health, economic and social costs.
Recognising that much pivotal work remains to be done to strengthen and accelerate capacity building for health security in the Indo-Pacific, the United States and Australia remain deeply committed to transparency, accountability and collaboration in this area. This includes commitment to a One Health approach that fosters cooperation between environmental conservation, human health, animal health, and plant health.
On the occasion of AUSMIN 2020, and in support of the goals of the United States Global Health Security Strategy and Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, our two governments reaffirm our strong partnership, and welcome strengthened cooperation throughout 2020 and beyond, by way of a joint plan of activities including:
- Virtually co-convening a second Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in 2020;
- Exploring opportunities to collaboratively build Indo-Pacific partner capacity in biosecurity, biosafety, and bio-surveillance to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks caused by especially dangerous pathogens, through laboratory placements for participants from the Greater Mekong Subregion in Australian research institutions, as well as joint biosafety training;
- Working together in third party countries to improve hygiene conditions, stop the selling of high risk wildlife in ‘wet markets’, and immediately encourage the enforcement of laws addressing the sale of illegal wildlife in all markets. This includes support to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop a targeted risk assessment and mitigation plan for identified wet markets in Indonesia to reduce risks of zoonotic disease spillover events;
- Exploring collaboration between the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS)’s implementing partners and the upcoming USAID Strategies to Prevent (STOP) Spillover program as well as an upcoming USAID private sector engagement program to identify and help partner governments mitigate zoonotic disease spillover risks with pandemic potential in the region, including through support for market solutions in the prevention of zoonosis and antimicrobial resistance along the livestock value chain;
- Extending collaborative support for a three-year program to strengthen community pandemic preparedness in Indonesia through the Red Cross in Indonesia, which builds on the U.S.-supported Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3);
- Extending the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program to the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in Papua New Guinea;
- Supporting the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap and exploring ways to strengthen the secretariat role of the Task Force for Global Health, further building on a CHS-supported high-level workshop in Geneva in February 2019 that brought together key players for this task;
- Strengthening public health emergency operations centers and conducting simulation exercises in selected partner countries including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar;
- Working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve access to new and under-used vaccines for the most vulnerable children and cohorts in the world’s poorest countries;
- The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening a series of webinars for counterpart agencies on Health Security in the Pacific with a focus on Pacific Island countries, and culminating in an in-person Pacific Regional Health Security Workshop in 2021;
- The ADF and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening Military Health Security Summit 2021 in Sydney, Australia, building on the outcomes of the successful Australia Defence Forces-USINDOPACOM co-hosted Military Health Security Summit in June 2019.
These activities will continue to expand Indo-Pacific health security engagement and capacity building and build on the significant progress achieved under this bilateral multi-sectoral partnership over the last two years. We welcome in particular the focus on the Pacific where, in response to the vulnerabilities of Pacific Island countries, Australia and the United States have successfully collaborated to:
- Co-procure, along with other partners, nearly 100,000 GeneXpert cartridges and testing machines to enable in-country COVID-19 testing;
- Coordinate contributions to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assisting on the ground in countries in their COVID-19 response;
- Coordinate ventilator and oxygen supply donations to match needs;
- Provide complementary support for the establishment of air transport and logistics services for the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway, which will assist the Pacific Islands Forum with the delivery of humanitarian and critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment, within the region, and;
- Coordinate support efforts through participation in regular US-Affiliated Pacific Islands teleconferences.
Australia and the United States have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and accountability in global health security over the past twelve months by:
- Conducting regular interagency health security dialogues to share information, policy perspectives, and best practice from our respective health security investments, with the engagement of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
- Commencing staff exchanges, with Australia’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS) hosting a U.S. Government Science Fellow for three months in 2019 from DTRA;
- Conducting consultations between CHS and U.S. government country teams and other in-country experts to support DFAT’s 2018 Health Security Scoping Missions in the Indo-Pacific;
- Providing joint leadership within the Steering Group of the multilateral Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA 2024; including through Australia’s Secretariat role and rotating membership of the Steering Group from 1 January 2019 and the U.S. government’s permanent membership), supporting the GHSA 2024 health security capacity improvement target and furthering the objectives of the GHSA Action Packages for Antimicrobial Resistance, Biosecurity and Biosafety, Sustainable Financing for Preparedness, and Workforce Development;
- Coordinating support for One Health capacity building through multilateral partners to enhance understanding of emerging zoonotic disease and antimicrobial resistance risk, and enable targeted risk-based mitigation along animal value chains and in live animal markets in the Greater Mekong sub-region;
- Aligning U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) Oceania and Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Medical Command Strategies, including executing joint health workforce development activities and collaborating on a regional health security forum at the inaugural Global Health Security Conference in Sydney in June 2019;
- Co-convening the first-ever Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in September 2019, involving the Australian government, the U.K. government, multilateral organisations and six U.S. government agencies;
- Developing an Indo-Pacific Collaborative Engagement Plan for DTRA’s Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and CHS, which may extend to other agencies in the future.
The United States and Australia look forward to continuing to work together bilaterally, and regionally including in relevant regional organizations, and in international forums, to promote an Indo-Pacific region that is safe and secure from the threats posed by infectious diseases and to reduce the risks of future pandemics. There has never been a more vital time to strengthen global health security.