Are we really building back better after COVID? Experts, policymakers weigh in

Eighteen months later, some countries are already recovering from COVID, while others are still in the thick of it. What's the current state of play on vaccines, what's holding up distribution, will the world emerge stronger or weaker, what should the private sector do, and has Biden delivered on US leadership expectations?

Top leaders from the United Nations, the WHO, the World Bank, and Microsoft weighed in during a Global Stage virtual conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly, moderated by The New Yorker's Susan Glasser.

"Science needs to succeed over politics" — WHO's Dr. Mike Ryan | GLOBAL STAGE | GZERO Mediayoutu.be

For Dr. Mike Ryan, head of emergencies at the World Health Organization, one big obstacle is vaccine hesitancy. And the worst part about it is, in his view, powerful people who weaponize misinformation to serve their own political or economic needs. We need to have a healthy debate about vaccines and their safety, he says, but ultimately "science needs to succeed over politics."

World Bank Chief: Developing Countries Need to Know When Vaccines Coming | GLOBAL STAGE | GZEROyoutu.be

For his part, World Bank President David Malpass says that wealthy countries and more recently India's Serum Institute are producing so many vaccines that there will likely be enough stocks to inoculate the entire world by the end of the year. However, to accomplish that, he warns, the nations that need jabs must know when they'll get them so they can prepare the groundwork to get the shots in people's arms.

Michelle Bachelet: Building back better is not going back to 2019 | GLOBAL STAGE | GZERO Mediayoutu.be

Even if we are able to vaccinate the world in time, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, says that building back better after COVID shouldn't mean returning to the same world we had before the pandemic. What we had back then, she explains, were political, social, and economic systems that didn't respond to people's needs — now we can either break through them, or break down to become an (even more) unequal world.

Why Public & Private Sectors Should Work Together| GLOBAL STAGE | GZERO Mediayoutu.be

Building back better is also about the private sector. The question is not if but rather how corporations will get involved. Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, believes the private sector has a big role to play in helping to roll out COVID vaccines. But the most important thing it can do, he says, is collaborate effectively with the public sector — with a clear understanding of each side's role "so we each do what we're equipped to do and what we do best."

Biden's International Leadership "All Focused at Home" | GLOBAL STAGE | GZERO Mediayoutu.be

Many countries are disappointed about a multilateralist like Joe Biden not delivering on US vaccine exports that the rest of the world desperately needs. But it doesn't surprise Ian Bremmer, who says Biden upset his allies the same way by withdrawing so abruptly from Afghanistan or leaving the French out of the AUKUS loop. For Bremmer, Biden, initially viewed as way more competent and trustworthy than Donald Trump, is now one of the least trusted US presidents in recent history — apart from Trump himself — because whatever he says, his international leadership is "all focused at home."

More from Global Stage

COVID upended the job market & focused employers on skills

COVID had few silver linings. But perhaps one of them is that it upended the labor market in ways that, for once, favored workers over employers. The switch to virtual meant that recruiters were forced to urgently find people with the right digital skills instead of waiting for those that had gone to the "right" schools. "The talent market became a little dry," Jonathan Rochelle, VP of Product Management, Learning Content & Instructor Experience at Linkedin, says during a Global Stage livestream discussion.

UN Environment Chief: “The truth is we are failing”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations' Environment Programme, issued a dire warning about climate change in a new interview with GZERO Media. In 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the world as standing “at the edge of an abyss,” and that next steps on climate were urgent and critical. “I think if you ask people on Pacific islands whose lands have been lost, they've already fallen off,” Andersen told GZERO. “Or even if you ask people in California whose houses got burnt in a wildfire, they have fallen off.”

Ian Bremmer: Russia is a rogue state

Does Vladimir Putin have any real friends left? In a Global Stage livestream conversation, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer says that the Russian president is losing China and India, who are telling him they're worried about the war in Ukraine dragging on. Not even the Kazakhs (!) are on his side anymore.

Future-proofing the internet from radicalization & extremist content

How do we respond to crises and keep people safe when the internet is abused by terrorists and violent extremists? How do we think about prevention? How do we future-proof Christchurch Call to Action (a political summit initiated by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) as the internet changes into a more immersive environment? Paul Ash, PM Ardern’s Special Representative on Cyber and Digital, discussed with GZERO Media in an interview at the United Nations.

Finland “investing in security and stability” with NATO push

Kai Sauer, Finland’s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Security Policy, told GZERO Media that as Finland awaits NATO membership his nation is already contributing to the alliance. “We are a security provider. We are investing in stability and security in our region,” Sauer said. “We are bringing a lot of capabilities to the alliance. So, it's in everybody's interest, also in Turkey's interest, that Finland and Sweden will become members.”

Why is Russia on the UN Security Council?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has launched a discussion about how the UN Security Council works, and how it is dysfunctional - especially when Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, is the invading country, said Melissa Fleming, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. In an interview with GZERO Media on the sidelines of the 77th General Assembly, Fleming reflected on the return to in-person diplomacy after years of disruption caused by pandemic. "There is this real feeling that the UN is the only place for global cooperation,” she said. “We cannot solve the world's intractable problems of climate change, of war, of refugees without multilateralism, and multilateralism is the UN. It is nations working together to solve problems.”

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