Session Summary: Global Perspectives on Fighting COVID-19

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator 

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London

Marko Čadež, President, Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Serbia 

Led by: Sarah Wheaton, Chief Policy Correspondent, POLITICO Europe, Brussels

 

The impact of the pandemic is far-fetching, not only in terms of loss of lives, but also in terms of economy, and not only in the developed countries but also in middle- and low-income countries. The approach taken by different countries has been very similar, but in some of them, they were faced with public dissatisfaction connected with the liberty-safety debate that takes place during wartime. And the fight against COVID, its recent and new mutations, is sort of war. 

Despite the pandemic situation across the world has been improving, Mr Čadež argues that “as a world society, we are failing at the policy level. What we have done, we have done more or less wrong.” The production, sharing and delivery of vaccines has improved, however, much more is needed to counter the virus in all corners of the world, not only in the Global North but in Global South, otherwise, the problem will be not solved. There are still a lot of problems such as trade restrictions or border restriction that do complicate the situation, but we have to fight with the tools and mechanisms we have. Mr Chakrabarti appreciates the stance of Serbia, the UK or Sweden on their national as well as regional level, but he stresses that we need to take a global approach. Mr Bild supports it as “nobody is safe until everybody is safe.” In the centre of this global approach, preparedness and prevention should stand.  

As different countries have different access to vaccines, vaccine diplomacy has been on a rise. Some countries do want something in return as underlined by Mrs Wheaton. However, that sort of behaviour needs to be put aside. Mr Čadež says there is no time and place to play games and geopolitics, “it’s about the lives of people”. Here, the coordinated approach of the whole international society is crucial. The rules on production and trade should apply everywhere on the same scale.  

The speakers all agree that we need stronger and more adaptive international institutions, mechanisms and rules. Some have been already established bringing together key governmental, non-governmental and private actors, which is unprecedented; some, especially the surveillance of the healthcare system, are still part of the recommendations and plans as reminded by Mr Bild. On the other side, Mr Čadež misses the discussion on the concrete future steps on how we will rebuild the economy; how we will support the industries, technology sharing while maintaining the pre-pandemic level of markets and trade. These are important questions to ask and answer and we need not only to think out of the box but to improve the box as well.