The UN Global Compact Academy convened a diverse group of speakers as part of its weekly series during the COVID-19 crisis, focused on the global cooperation needed not just to address the pandemic but also for the future.
The discussion focused on the collaboration needed to help societies live with COVID-19, knowing its impacts will be felt for the foreseeable future, and on how to use the current disruption to build back better using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap.
Speakers included David Nabarro, currently a special envoy on COVID-19 for the World Health Organization, after a decades-long career in medicine, social justice and sustainability, including service to a number of UN leaders including the former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Swazi Tshabalala of the African Development Bank noted predictions that Africa’s GDP could decline 3-8% due to the crisis, rolling back a trajectory of steady growth in Africa for the past two decades. It was a stark reminder of the complexities of achieving the SDGs by 2030, at the onset of what the UN coined a “decade of action” earlier this year.
Beyond the need for collaboration, Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund called for systemic changes as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. Paul Polman singled out the potential for business to be part of the solution – and highlighted the positive momentum signaling that sustainable investments are still smart investments.
Together the panel endorsed a number of steps that all stakeholders should push themselves to follow, as we navigate this time of unprecedented challenge:
- “Don’t allow physical distancing to mean social distancing” – connect with others in different ways including those you might not normally work with.
- Take advantage of sectors being transformed to reconstruct and build back better – for example these recently highlighted by S&P Global.
- Ensure the recovery is “just and sustainable” and takes into account those hardest hit.
- Finally, learn the lessons that we are all interconnected and that the cost of not acting is higher than the cost of acting.