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Building a Global Community Resilient to COVID and Future Pandemics

April 17, 2020

COVID-19 has caused individuals and governments all over the world to examine the resiliency of our essential systems. Many of us are asking ourselves how we could have been better prepared to deal with this pandemic. And how can we make sure our systems are more resilient to future impacts?

Last month, Abt’s Resilience Initiative hosted a webinar about building resilience across diverse sectors. One of our panelists was Ambassador John Lange, a Senior Fellow for Global Health Diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation, whose previous experience includes work on preparedness for avian and pandemic influenza.  We asked Ambassador Lange about the characteristics of a global community that is resilient to pandemics. We’re sharing his important insights below.  

  • Preparation. At global, national, and local scales, we are observing the consequences of a lack of preparedness for a pandemic. During the last several weeks, hospitals and medical providers have depleted their supplies, and healthcare workers have pleaded for personal protection equipment that isn’t available. Preparation doesn’t just include having enough supplies, but also refers to building the capacity of people who need to carry out essential tasks during a public health emergency.  
  • Leadership. Leadership is needed at all levels—from heads of international organizations to national leaders to state and local officials. Good leaders aren’t just present during times of crisis; they stress the importance of preparedness when times are calm.
  • Transparency. Countries must openly communicate with citizens and the international community. They should share information about the steps they will take in the event of an emergency—as well as information about the nature of encroaching threats—to ensure that other countries and communities can prepare accordingly. 
  • Solidarity. Vulnerable populations and communities often experience the most severe impacts of extreme events. A truly resilient global community maintains lifelines and safety nets for those who have less capacity to respond. Ambassador Lange highlighted the UN Foundation’s efforts to help build solidarity through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Fund supports the World Health Organization’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.
  • Long-term perspective. Maintaining a long-term perspective when preparing for and responding to a pandemic is arguably the most important characteristic of a resilient community, but also the most difficult to act on. As we recover from and move on from a pandemic, other issues demand our attention. But building capacity over the long term is the only way to truly become more resilient to a severe impact. This includes allocating and protecting sustainable long-term financing for pandemic preparedness.

As we continue to respond to COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics, it will be important to act on this advice from our global health experts and take conscious steps to strengthen the global community’s resilience to pandemics.  

Learn more or watch the webinar video.

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