In my ongoing campaign for multi-stakeholder collaboration, I have had a strong reaction to the film “Don’t Look Up” and the media attention it has attracted. I understand why Leonardo di Caprio’s well-known activism regarding climate change makes it an obvious comparison to the apparent failure of the Glasgow Summit on Climate Change (COP 26) to avoid the looming catastrophe of global warming. But it inspires me to share my somewhat contrary views about climate change. I do agree that climate change is happening and that much more needs to be done to avoid a catastrophe. But I also believe that the political will to do more depends on our building popular support for action through multistakeholder collaboration. Here is my commentary on what this means for us. Continue reading “Step by Step toward Resilience: A Commentary on Climate Change”
What is most striking, as we end this dreadful year of 2021, is the transitional nature of things but also the appallingly non-transformational nature of things. I am struck by the passing of a number of transitional figures who made their mark on current versions of history and, what is more important to me, in this particular commentary, is that they made a mark on me personally. Here, in no particular order, I reflect on the impact of Vernon Jordan, Walter Mondale, Colin Powell, Bob Dole, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka, John Ruggie and Desmond Tutu. Quite a collection! Only one of them, as far as I know, was a loss attributable to the coronavirus itself (Colin Powell), but their losses have simply added to making this a year of sadness and melancholy for me. Continue reading “Obituaries 2021”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to feature a lively debate on the balancing of scientific and policy perspectives – most recently on the search for verifiable evidence on the origins of this particular coronavirus. From the beginning of the pandemic, I have been writing commentaries on the importance of applying both a political lens and a scientific lens to the management of the pandemic. At the time, we were all understandably concerned about the risk of political actions that were clearly contrary to the scientific evidence. But that should not have led us away from the value of incorporating the science into a workable political framework for collaborative action. I still embrace the need for balance – combining the scientific guidance on who needs to wear a mask, for example, with political guidance on how this should be implemented in specific circumstances.
A second interest of mine has been to write about the remarkable flowering of global and multi-stakeholder collaboration that the pandemic has inspired – in vaccine development most strikingly but also in the efforts to ensure global sharing of vaccines and therapeutic needs. In fact, the multi-stakeholder nature of this collaboration has been a particular focus of my ongoing commentaries.
With these themes in mind, I have started a compendium here of the proposals and actions since January 2021 that continue to inspire me to write about the global and multi-stakeholder response to the pandemic. This list is being regularly updated.
Moving beyond the “subterranean machinations” of Franco-American rivalries, I revert back to my preoccupations with the prospects for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration on the COVID-19 pandemic. And I do so with renewed inspiration, perhaps reinforced by the very sudden global panic about the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization has identified as a new “variant of concern”. My inspiration, however, has preceded the greater attention to the importance of global collaboration that has escalated in public debates to control the spread of this latest variant. This is because I have personally benefited from the interviews and joint public appearances of several key players – the WHO and WTO Directors-General with the heads of the IMF and World Bank, plus two major American figures, Dr. Rochelle Wilensky at the US Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And through the past few weeks, I have absorbed the significance of the health-related outcomes from both the G20 Leaders Summit in Rome and and the “Conference of the Parties” for various climate change agreements (identified as “COP26”) in Glasgow.
Living through the latest “bump in the road” in Franco-American relations has stirred me to venture into writing a commentary with a different twist than has been my usual pattern. I don’t mean to ignore my ongoing preoccupation with advocating vaccine equity. – nor my longer lasting and well established preoccupation in support of multi-stakeholder collaboration. In the context of this latest “bump”, however, the commentary has to start with some wishful thinking about broader geopolitical issues like military alliances or trade agreements or peace treaties – issues that are less conducive to a multi-stakeholder approach. That is to say, they are more in the realm of traditional inter-governmental relations in the control of national governments, whether the policy deliberations are conducted multilaterally or unilaterally. And thus, we start here, not so coincidentally, with the commemoration of a military battle and segue from that to a commentary on the strategic positioning of major countries – nation-states, governments and all that – before it gets back to vaccine equity or multi-stakeholderism. Bear with me on this journey in search of renewed hope for these two preoccupations of mine. Continue reading “Subterranean Machinations and Franco-American Relations”
The fluidity in the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take us through uncharted waters as we gradually absorb the signs urging us to just “live with it” somehow. Even the modified springtime message from the epidemiologists that we might at least manage to get past the “acute” phase of this pandemic by the end of 2021 seems to have lost its resonance. Here we are in mid-July 2021 with a global death toll passing the 4 million mark, and alarming reports about the highly contagious delta variant, the looming epsilon variant, urgent pleas (and even mandates) from the French president and the Italian prime minister to get vaccinated, crazy mixed messages in the UK, confusion about mask-wearing in the US, and dramatic upsurges in countries (like Indonesia this time) with low vaccination rates and limited access to available vaccine doses. At least there is a renewed effort to work things through the COVAX Facility, both with regard to the more equitable distribution of available vaccine doses and, quite encouragingly, to increasing and diversifying the manufacturing capacity for vaccines but also for therapeutics and diagnostics. Here are my personal impressions of what this means for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? A Progress Report on the Vision of Global and Multi-stakeholder Collaboration”
The fluidity of the pandemic was vividly apparent last week when we all heard about the sharp and unexpected reversal of the previous US position in support of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization. I had just expressed my own assumption a couple of days before, that the crisis that was unfolding in India (and in South America) was wreaking havoc on the COVAX Facility and on the very premise of an equitable and global response to the pandemic. And here came another dramatic change in the policy landscape – one that has inspired me to look more optimistically on the future of the global path after all! I am a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the COVAX Facility under the circumstances, even if the waiver announcement from the White House may seem to work against the interests of a global response through the COVAX Facility. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? (updated with optimism)”
Up until now, I have been speaking up for a global response to the pandemic – a globally defined, equitable sharing of all the tools we can possibly find by working together. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative that was launched by the WHO a year ago is the prime example of this approach. I have been especially enthusiastic about the COVAX Facility that was launched as a part of this initiative to bring countries together to pool available vaccines for a globally equitable distribution based on population. But the huge surge in India upends the formula for the equitable sharing of available vaccines. It may well be that the formula had already lost traction because of the rationale for dealing with the second and third waves of serious outbreaks in the US and Europe. For me, though, it is the Indian surge that has led me to question the whole business of how we can achieve vaccine equity. It has become far more than a question of the equitable distribution of an existing but limited supply of vaccines; it has also become a question of how to dramatically – and rapidly – expand the actual supply. Continue reading “Whither COVAX?”
Vaccine Nationalism appears in multiple forms, it seems. And it is unlikely that popular support for a global perspective will ever expand to counter any of it. At least not for the current pandemic. Here is a personal story – but one that is accompanied by a note about the global context – and a lamentation. It’s all about a new bargain – a regional one, not necessarily a global one – for another 1 billion doses of vaccines (good news) – not for just anybody in need but for certain groups of people in need; not for now but for a year and a half or more from now; not for the sake of humanitarian concern but for the sake of shared national interests. Some might speculate that it’s all about US versus China, while others might insist that it isn’t. But it also has repercussions for global concerns spilling over into economic recovery from the pandemic, climate change, gender equality and even the future of global technology trends. Continue reading “Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism”
Congratulations once again to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria for her appointment as the WTO’s 7th Director-General of the World Trade Organization. How thrilling it was a couple of weeks ago to know that the barriers to her appointment had come down. In anticipation of the beginning of her tenure on the first of March, I would like to focus here on one of the reasons her leadership of the WTO is so important – her clear grasp of the pandemic crisis and of what the WTO can do to make a significant difference in fighting its global consequences. I am convinced that the WTO is an ideal forum to mobilize a global response to shift the world away from the vaccine nationalism that has proven so difficult to resist. This may not be the only issue on a very full agenda of WTO reform challenges, but it is excellent timing for a person with Dr. Ngozi’s qualifications to arrive on the scene with this as the most immediate crisis for her to manage. Continue reading “Shared Reflections on Dr. Ngozi’s Third Way and the Opportunities for a New Direction at the WTO”