Governing the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator: towards greater participation, transparency, and accountability.
Moon S., Armstrong J., Hutler B., Upshur R., Katz R., Atuire C., Bhan A., Emanuel E., Faden R., Ghimire P., Greco D., Ho CW., Kochhar S., Schaefer GO., Shamsi-Gooshki E., Singh JA., Smith MJ., Wolff J.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is a multistakeholder initiative quickly constructed in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to respond to a catastrophic breakdown in global cooperation. ACT-A is now the largest international effort to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health technologies, and its governance is a matter of broad public importance. We traced the evolution of ACT-A's governance through publicly available documents and analysed it against three principles embedded in the founding mission statement of ACT-A: participation, transparency, and accountability. We found three challenges to realising these principles. First, the roles of the various organisations in ACT-A decision making are unclear, obscuring who might be accountable to whom and for what. Second, the absence of a clearly defined decision making body; ACT-A instead has multiple centres of legally binding decision making and uneven arrangements for information transparency, inhibiting meaningful participation. Third, the nearly indiscernible role of governments in ACT-A, raising key questions about political legitimacy and channels for public accountability. With global public health and billions in public funding at stake, short-term improvements to governance arrangements can and should now be made. Efforts to strengthen pandemic preparedness for the future require attention to ethical, legitimate arrangements for governance.