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Risk in Context

Implications for Decision Makers During a Pandemic

POSTED BY Talal Darras Thursday, 09 July 2020

COVID-19 began as a health crisis, and then quickly became an economic crisis and an energy crisis, highlighting the inherent interdependencies of global risks. The extent of the crisis will ultimately be determined by our collective ability to understand and act on these interdependencies across social, economic and political imperatives, in a spirit of partnership among civil, public and private sectors.

Critical global risks have not gone away – from climate degradation and biodiversity loss to conflict and political division – and many are actually exacerbated by the current crisis, including cyberattacks, inequality, social instability and even the potential for future infectious disease outbreaks. However, it is possible to see opportunity in the economic recovery. Bold policies hold out the hope for driving the transition towards a more socially just and sustainable global economy.

Based on an analysis of the main consequences from the pandemic and its potential second order effects, the challenges and questions presented in this section are a starting point for framing the discussions that need to happen between businesses, governments and societies worldwide.

Understanding interdependencies exposed by the crisis

  • How can economic recovery and fiscal policies be used to accelerate nationally determined emissions reduction commitments and drive a low-carbon transition?
  • Will consumer behavior change to the extent that some industries, such as travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment, are fundamentally altered in their nature and delivery? How will that affect economic growth and employment?
  • How can bold reforms be enacted while considering and protecting those most vulnerable to social and economic dislocations in the midst of this crisis?

Managing institutional change in the midst of crisis response

  • How can the crisis help to re-energize, refocus or renew the value of multinational institutions to enhance global cooperation?
  • What are the best principles to manage the social and political implications of balancing quick economic recovery and the threat of second or third waves of COVID-19 infections?

Building back better

  • How can the declaration of “victory over the virus” be timed correctly and the opportunity to “build back better” be seized without fail?
  • How can the solutions needed now be properly evaluated and targeted in ways that avoid hard-to reverse realities that may be regretted in the future?
  • Should multilateral organizations remain the focus for funding and support to strengthen their ability to address global challenges, or should reform instead focus on enhancing national, regional or subnational structures?

Building corporate, national and international resilience

  • How can business and political leaders refresh their risk assessments? How can senior-level deliberation on complex and persistent threats be strengthened in ways that promote investment in resilience within their institutions?
  • Recognizing high levels of anxiety and acts of extraordinary selflessness, how can all sectors energize societal interactions that spur new initiatives and broad-based resilience at the community level?

These are just some of the questions for debate and discussion that will shape the global agenda in the coming period and in which the World Economic Forum and its multistakeholder community will continue to engage.

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