Crisis response and recovery: Reimagining while rebuilding

Crisis response and recovery: Reimagining while rebuilding

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The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered profound political, economic, and social shocks. For some countries, the worst of the crisis is already behind them, while others continue to grapple with severe health and economic challenges — and will still do so well into 2021. But as the world starts to rebuild, it is critical to focus not just on the speed but also on the quality of the recovery.


The recovery presents a rare opportunity for the world to confront climate change, create an inclusive internet, and safeguard critical cyber infrastructure. These goals are ambitious, especially in a "G-Zero" world in which the global order built after World War II — including the United Nations itself — is under strain and a time when many people feel that governments — in their towns, cities, and countries — are not up to the task. To achieve an inclusive, sustainable, and secure recovery, new alliances must be forged, involving governments, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. The old solutions won't work.

And the old toolkit won't be enough either: 21st century challenges can't be solved with 20th century methods. That means new tools must be embraced, from digital education and training to carbon-negative technologies and more. Technology will play a key role. The United Nations, technology companies, and governments are collaborating on new ways to educate students, safeguard the internet, and measure changes in the environment. On the 75th anniversary of the UN, governments, companies, and NGOs will come together to discuss how to build a stronger, more resilient world.

What's the UN doing about it?

Through the World Health Organization, the UN is at the forefront of coordinating government responses to the pandemic. The agency has been a clearinghouse for the latest research into the virus and has provided important guidance on the best responses, such as safe practices for reopening schools. As focus turns towards recovery, the UN will continue to play a leading role in helping governments, industry, nonprofits, and international financial institutions work together to rebuild and strengthen resilience ahead of the next crisis. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the centerpiece of the UN's rebuilding agenda. For the UN, the agenda — which aims to eradicate poverty, promote prosperity, and protect the planet — is even more urgent given the pandemic-driven disruptions.

How are others trying to help?

Technology will play an important role in building a safer, more inclusive, and greener world. In the immediate term, leaders need to find ways to safely return to some degree of normalcy during the pandemic. More than one billion students across the world face school closures, and we must ensure that young people don't fall behind. To that end, the UN, companies, civil society, and academia have developed new tools to ensure students can keep up, including a program called Learning Passport which allows students to keep learning despite the disruptions caused by crisis and displacement.

The rapid shift to remote work will likely herald a broader move toward work-from-home or hybrid workspaces, which means increased demands on technology infrastructure. Decision-makers need access to reliable information about difficult-to-predict future threats, including climate change, pandemics, or displacements of people due to war or disasters. That's why some technology companies are partnering with the UN, national governments, and NGOs to develop tools to spot emerging threats. In addition, as the world begins to rebuild, governments need to be responsive to the needs of their people. The proliferation of cyber attacks and misinformation threatens the democratic political process, making it even more important for government and industry to collaborate to defend the vitality and health of democracies.

What's needed next?

Governments and businesses need to collaborate more to expand and strengthen 5G infrastructure to support remote work and school and to ensure that everyone has access to speedy, reliable internet. Moreover, given the economic changes caused by the pandemic, new investment must ensure that people have access to education and training to learn new skills to compete in the workforce. Companies also need to take the initiative to reduce carbon emissions, and a number of major companies have joined together to form the Transform to Net Zero coalition to do exactly that.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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