But overcoming this crisis and preventing the next one will require a great deal more than national responses.
The international community must be ready to share knowledge and coordinate across borders. Finding a solution will be more expedient if our research ecosystems are better connected. Countries hardest hit will need the help of others. The more support they get, the less the damage will spread. Indeed, containment strategies will work only if they are coordinated regionally and globally. And when a vaccine is developed, it will be effective only if it’s deployed to everyone who needs it.
Simply put, until we are all beyond danger, no one will be safe.
As we fight the virus in Spain, we understand that our economic, social and health security are all dependent on increased collaboration with our European neighbors. The European Union is our home and our destiny. But Europe alone cannot tackle all global challenges.
We would like to put forward four concrete proposals:
First, the government of Spain will establish a domestic commission to assess the state of our health-care system and to take measures to strengthen it. We would like to propose a similar exercise at the international level, led by a reinforced World Health Organization, with a focus on better-coordinated protocols for preparedness, emergency response, health-data sharing and the international mobilization of human and technical resources. If there is one lesson to draw from the crisis, it is that health is a global public good, and it should be treated as such.
Second, we need to deepen scientific collaboration, both in terms of effective treatments and the development of a vaccine. Spain has just conveyed a committee of scientific advisers and launched a fund to finance investigation about the virus. We propose a fast-tracked agreement by all countries that would effectively put their national research on the novel coronavirus and other pathogens at the service of international teams and not-for-profit initiatives.
Third, we need unprecedented global coordination to jump-start the engines of our economies, so the shock is as short-lived as possible and no one is left behind. Within the E.U., this will require a greater degree of financial solidarity and new fiscal tools. At the global level, we need a resounding “whatever it takes” message from the Group of 20 and concerted action from central banks to beat uncertainty and volatility. Settling trade differences between the United States, China and the E.U. will also be of great help. And devising a package of solutions for the poorest countries will be of the essence. Once the crisis is over, many sectors of our economies may need deep support and reform. This will be an opportunity to transition toward a more equitable and sustainable economy. We should seize it.
Finally, it is time to be bold and envision new ways forward for our international institutions. We propose launching a thorough review at the next U.N. summit in September. The goal should be to find ways to reinforce the institutions that work, replace those that do not, create those that are missing and, overall, promote simplicity, effectiveness, coherence and cohesion. We need a system that responds to the needs of the 21st century.
We often talk about global governance, but there is, in fact, less of it than most people think. Globalization has deepened our economic links, but our tools to govern them have not. We live in a world of dazzling new technologies, yet our global governance mechanisms are blatantly outdated. We have been unable to manage some of the greatest challenges of our time, such as climate change or the rise of inequality, in an effective manner.
Our primary responsibility right now is to the health and well-being of our citizens. This is what the Spanish government is focused on. However, if we are to prevent new crises like this one, work should start right now to build a better-governed world.
Our answer to this crisis will determine the fate of humanity for generations to come. Let’s get it right.