Mandatory facemasks, local and national lockdowns, travel bans … Since the WHO declared the COVID outbreak a Public Health Emergency in January 2020, countries have taken several measures to slow the spread of the virus. As strict these measures may be, it’s been a year and the virus has yet to be contained. Many of us are still working from home and decision-makers continue to face tough choices.

COVID-19 shows how difficult it is to manage global crises. Countries and local administrations needed to take bold and effective measures, but they often lacked clear data that could support a long-term strategy. In many cases, it took time to figure out where one institution’s responsibility ended and another one began.

The pandemic presented decision-makers with some difficult trade-offs. Lockdowns and travel restrictions have economic, social and ethical impacts. What is more, these impacts often hit hardest with already disadvantaged groups. The first round of COVID restrictions especially delivered an immense blow to economies around the world. Decision-makers found themselves having to balance the risks of surging infection rates with those of economic devastation. On top of that, they had to take into account the international repercussions of their actions.  

From mandatory face masks, to lockdowns and travel bans, since the start of the pandemic, decision-makers have been faced with tough choices with difficult trade-offs.

Our world is highly interconnected. Decisions in one country can hugely affect other countries, event on other continents. Seasonal migrant work, for instance, was hit hard by the pandemic. Estimated at 800 000 – 1 000 000 workers per year, seasonal migrant workers play an essential role in the European agriculture sector. Even so, when the borders closed, seasonal migration grinded to a halt. At best, workers were left without an income, at worst their place of work shuttered during the lockdown and they had to quarantine away from home, often in less-than-ideal living conditions.

Our recent policy brief outlines some approaches to effective risk management.

  • Perhaps most importantly, public authorities have to define ‘ownership’: it needs to be clear who’s responsible to make decisions and to make actions.
  • Decision-makers need to cooperate across borders for the effective prevention, detection and management of international disturbances

These recommendations hold true for COVID-19, but can also improve decision-makers’ responses to climate change. Within many governments, the responsibilities to identify, track and build resilience to climate risks remain unclear. Much of the adaptation and mitigation efforts start at the local level, while a much-needed systemic, interconnected and collaborative national and international level has proven far more difficult. RECEIPT is developing storylines exploring future climate conditions to provide decision-makers with actionable data to design adaptation plans towards climate uncertainty.

Want to learn more about lessons COVID-19 can teach us about coordinating policies and preparedness? Have a look at our Policy Brief!

Have a look at more bitesize content from the policy brief:

Published on : 29 January 2021