GZERO Media Town Hall: Could our response to COVID help end poverty?

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its first virtual town hall on how to fight global poverty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The panel featured Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media President Ian Bremmer, and Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The conversation was moderated by Africa No Filter's Moky Makura.

Watch the full video above.


Has the pandemic strengthened or weakened multilateral organizations?

Songwe:

  • It has reinforced and strengthened them, not weakened them, by creating space for larger collaborative platforms. At the UN, we are bringing in some of the leading economists and think tanks in the world to think about how we can respond to this crisis differently. Questions about inclusion and participation are already starting to come to the table, as the UN's open platform brings in civil society voices on this subject. The World Health Organization has been a shining light, guiding us in terms of the scientific evidence, while other institutions, like the Centers for Disease Control in Africa and elsewhere, have been particularly important.
  • But resources are slim. We need to shore these multilateral institutions with more professional and scientific staff, as well as more financing for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, so they can respond in a timely manner to the economic aspect of this crisis.

How do we ensure that if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, it can reach every corner of the globe?

Suzman:

  • Let polio be an example. Last week, Africa was officially declared polio-free by the WHO, meaning the only parts of the world that still have the disease are Afghanistan and Pakistan. That shows you what can be done, even in very challenging logistical environments. The world knows how to do it. GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, has probably saved more lives in the last 20 years than any collaborative effort in human history. I'm relatively optimistic. It is challenging, but we know how to do it. We have the constructs, we have the supply chains, we have the health systems.
  • What we don't have is the money and resources to be able to procure at scale in sufficient volume. What is equitable distribution and how do you do it rapidly at a time when so many individual countries may try to lock up supply for their own citizens. It's an understandable impulse, but there's a risk that this kind of "vaccine nationalism" actually sets the world back.

Should low- and middle-income countries be entitled to debt relief amid the pandemic?

Bremmer:

  • Sure, but under what conditions? Austerity-based reforms that Western economists believe will create more sustainable long-term growth can cause enormous hardship for populations that you don't really want to hurt. Loans are also often attached to political reforms — and that's where China is going to be critical to the debt relief equation, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where Beijing isn't going to demand the same kind of economic or political liberalization in exchange for support. Frequently the Chinese conditions are much more opaque, sometimes beholding these countries to China's economic and political interests, which may not be good for either the world or these countries' populations.
  • I think we have to worry that as the global order is fragmenting, especially as the US and China are at much greater odds with each other. We could well be fighting over conditionality and debt for some of the most vulnerable countries, and that's something that we're going to have to pay attention to.
Stay tuned for future GZERO Media Town Halls.


This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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