COVID-19 Needs a Political Lens as Well as a Scientific One

On tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and taking heart with the latest observations from Bill Gates, I can appreciate his point that it is « not timely » to engage in a blame game.  The pandemic is still not under control. We are in the midst of so much – saving lives, staying healthy, easing back into productive activities, avoiding a second or third wave, finding a vaccine or a cure, helping those who are in dire straits to have access (both to health care and to livelihoods generally), halting the looming famine where the pandemic has just taken off. So much needs to be done! We are advised that our attention – and our resources – are urgently needed to be focused in this time of crisis through what Mr. Gates describes as a “scientific” lens”, and not a “political” lens. Here is some contrary advice. We need both! Continue reading “COVID-19 Needs a Political Lens as Well as a Scientific One”

Travel and Information Flows: Working WITH the World Health Organization

“As dangerous as it sounds.” These are the words that Bill Gates used to describe the blustering, thoughtless announcement by President Donald Trump to suspend US contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a growing global pandemic. In this commentary, I look at two key issues that are swirling in the unfolding debate about what the WHO did and did not do – on travel restrictions, for one, but on a freedom of information flow more generally, for another. Although the WHO is being criticized for its actions on these two issues, I believe that they call for more engagement with the WHO, not less. The commentary starts with a personal assessment of the WHO’s strengths and weaknesses and of the important revisions to the WHO’s International Health Regulations in 2005.  It then focuses on why the sensitive areas of managing travel and information flows justify more rather than less involvement with the WHO. Thank you, Bill Gates! Continue reading “Travel and Information Flows: Working WITH the World Health Organization”

Throwing the Mustard Pot at the WHO

In the midst of the restlessness of people defying the coronavirus lock-down here in France, there was a report of a group of teenagers caught by the police for flaunting the lock-down order. They had reportedly gathered in an alley in the town of St. Etienne for a barbecue party. The fleeing youth apparently tried to distract the gendarmes, who had, of course, caught wind of their burgers on the grill, by throwing a pot of mustard at them. I thought to myself, aha, just like the bizarre President Donald Trump – throwing mustard at the World Health Organization (WHO) to distract the world from his own flaunting of the pandemic! What an absolute farce this man has become! (Or always was, for that matter, but this being the only and most egregious CURRENT example of his malevolent psyche.) And here he is doing even more damage! Continue reading “Throwing the Mustard Pot at the WHO”

Early Reflections on Covid-19, the New March Madness

In the Northern Hemisphere, March is a pivotal month for the onslaught of “spring fever”. And for those of us who have been known to embrace the herd mentality of the season-ending collegiate basketball tournament in the US, it is also known as the month of “March Madness”. In this year of 2020, it seems tragically appropriate that, in this turbulent month, we have experienced yet another kind of “March Madness”. And that is the fearsome disease that we have come to know as “Covid-19”. As we come to the end of this crazy month, here are some reflections on why the Covid-19 pandemic will forever be associated in my mind with the madness of this pivotal month of March. Continue reading “Early Reflections on Covid-19, the New March Madness”

Personal Musings on the New March Madness

In the Northern Hemisphere, March is a pivotal month for the onslaught of “spring fever”. And for those of us who have been known to embrace the herd mentality of the season-ending collegiate basketball tournament in the US, it is also known as the month of “March Madness”. In this year of 2020, it seems tragically appropriate that, in this turbulent month, we have experienced yet another kind of “March Madness”. And that is the fearsome disease that we have come to know as “Covid-19”. As we come to the end of this crazy month, here are some reflections on why the Covid-19 pandemic will forever be associated in my mind with the madness of this pivotal month of March. Continue reading “Personal Musings on the New March Madness”

Warm Greetings for the New Decade

Warm greetings to all for a fulfilling and inclusive 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. As this past eventful decade and its closing year of 2019 come to an end, we are all hopeful that 2020 will be a turning point for more than the beginning of a new decade. We are talking about a turning point in politics, of course, but also a more fundamental turning point in the political will to make a difference in support of human rights, healthy and sustainable livelihoods, freedom, dignity, and a clean and safe environment for generations to come. 

Continue reading “Warm Greetings for the New Decade”

Snippet on Civic Space from the 2019 Paris Peace Forum

Among the initiatives that were officially “launched” at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum was something called an “Observatory of Civic Space” at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It was illuminating to learn that the OECD had been selected by an unusual group of sponsors – or that the OECD had itself solicited this unusual group of sponsors – for such an observatory. Continue reading “Snippet on Civic Space from the 2019 Paris Peace Forum”

More Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Borders in a ‘Borderless’ World

Borders are what you deal with when you have to show a passport to someone to go from one place to another. So what is it about having borders in a “borderless” world? I was attracted to this event at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum with the simplistic assumption that it would be about how to manage borders to facilitate human migration, trade and capital flows. Much to my surprise, the event had been organized to promote the role of borders to keep people apart, and not to manage borders to bring people together! Well, this proves to be a far more fundamental principle of what borders are about than I had put any thought into. So I learned something here. Continue reading “More Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Borders in a ‘Borderless’ World”

Further Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Climate Change

“COP 25” is wrapping up in Madrid as I sit at my desk in my “birds’ nest” of an office looking out at a wintry scene of an early dusk that brings a glow of the setting sun to the olive and cypress trees just outside my window. I am overdue to wrap up my series of reports on the 2019 Paris Peace Forum with some observations about what transpired there on the issue of climate change. And here it is long past the brief moment in the sunshine for that event (weeks ago in November!) as the whirlwind of climate change activists – and the media – have converged instead around COP 25 in Madrid. I am, however, quite mellow as I sit in my “birds’ nest” and mull over what I might write about this issue.  Neither the Paris Peace Forum nor the Madrid COP 25 will be seen as pivotal events for climate change, even as the issue is clearly mounting in media attention and public policy concern. But the one big takeaway that I learned at the Paris Peace Forum is that significant incremental action is taking hold. Continue reading “Further Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Climate Change”

Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum 2019: The Macron Message, Digital Anxieties and Gender

Although I may have had a strong negative impression overall of how the 2019 Paris Peace Forum was managed, I did pick up some interesting insights on a variety of topics. Let me reiterate: I was truly disappointed with the lack of inclusiveness, lack of clarity of programming and lack of follow-through  or even wrapping-up messaging by the Forum’s organizers. Nonetheless, the Grande Halle de Villette apparently attracted some 7000 participants, many of whom were there to promote their fledgling projects (over 100 of them) but also to share their expertise, on advancing multilateralism.  So there was a lot to choose from. Here are my snippets on the Eurocentric highlights of the opening ceremony, the dominance throughout the Forum of digital-related interests and the cross-cutting nature of the Forum’s gender-related initiatives. Future snippets are in the works on the Forum’s role in introducing new perspectives on climate change, a new civic observatory for the OECD and a rather interesting (for me, anyway) discussion of border management issues. Continue reading “Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum 2019: The Macron Message, Digital Anxieties and Gender”