Unprecedented & Unfinished: COVID-19 and Implications for National and Global Policy

Unprecedented & Unfinished: COVID-19 and Implications for National and Global Policy
International Science Council, May 2022 :: 110 pages
PDF: https://council.science/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/UnprecedentedAndUnfinished-OnlineVersion.pdf
This new report from the ISC outlines plausible scenarios for the COVID-19 pandemic to consider the options for achieving the most desirable end to the crisis, highlighting that decisions made over the coming months and years need to be informed not only by short-term priorities but also by long-term challenges, and will serve as an analytical tool for policy-makers to lead to a more optimistic outcome to the pandemic.

Executive Summary [Excerpt]
What are the key recommendations for how the global community prepares?
Mapping the clocks, the vectors of uncertainty and the resulting outcomes provides an overview of the complexity of the pandemic’s impact and the multiple chain reactions that it has unleashed.
Decisions and actions must be scrutinized in the context of cascading risks, complex feedback loops and multiple trade-offs.

Considering the multidimensional nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Part 2 of the report outlines the most important lessons and policy implications that are widely applicable for either national or multilateral action. The aim is to suggest ways to shift the current trajectory towards a more optimistic outcome that is closer to the Collaboration Plus scenario.

Some of the key recommendations are shown in Table 1. These include the following:
Global and regional cooperation are essential as a core component of seeking remedies and ongoing protection. Current shortcomings in the multilateral system highlighted by the handling of the pandemic (and indeed of the Ukraine crisis) call for reform in the way this operates to handle major crises. This is especially the case given the need to navigate through COVID-19 while facing multiple risks related to climate change, geopolitical tensions, food security and other areas.

In order to address the widening inequalities that have resulted from the pandemic, governments
need to focus on ensuring that the benefits of any future economic recovery are widely shared. This means investing in several areas of overlapping impacts, including: inclusive governance; the acceleration of international mechanisms to ensure high-quality therapeutics for low-income countries; elimination of the digital divide in education; and mitigation of social isolation arising from the pandemic through mechanisms for engagement across society.

Governments must review and reframe the way they assess risk, integrating it more formally into policy development. Transdisciplinary thinking and a focus on resilience are required both before and during a crisis to increase preparedness for and resilience to a wide range of disasters, considering interconnected risks and consequences.

Governments must prioritize building and maintaining trust, help strengthen societal cohesion, and foster cooperation and resilience. Community engagement should be a central activity in preparedness plans for pandemics and other crises, with a diversity of views heard

There is a need to address the challenges of disinformation, and to strengthen pluralistic science advice systems to increase trust in science, thereby protecting societies from risks.

Equally, there is a need invest in R&D for the public good. As part of this, the UN should develop a more integrated approach to science so that challenges can be overcome by working towards common goals.

Policy learning at the local, regional, national, and international level must be increased. This includes sourcing multiple kinds of data and knowledge to learn what precipitated events and what went wrong, in order to develop better mechanisms to address future risks.


Key messages
The pandemic has affected every society and is truly a global crisis. Policymakers have focused predominantly on national solutions. However, a global crisis requires global and regional cooperation and solutions, in addition to well thought-through national and local responses.

Although the pandemic will continue to affect every aspect of social, political, economic, and diplomatic life, many decision-makers continue to take a short-term perspective, neglecting the potential impact of their decisions on non-health-related policy domains far into the future.

This project provides a template for policy-makers and experts to consider local decisions in a wider context. It highlights the types of decisions that might lead to better and more equitable outcomes, and illustrates the complex interactions between these decisions.

The future course of the pandemic, and its consequences that extend well beyond the health regime, will depend on policy decisions taken today. Such decisions will shorten or prolong the course of the pandemic and mitigate or aggravate its impacts.

Clocks describe a policy dimension and the timeframe at which the outcomes of interest manifest. This conveys the realization that different parts of the global system change and evolve at different speeds and across different timeframes, all while interacting with each other. This report examines seven clocks (health, social, national governance, economics, global governance, environment, and science and technology).