To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Panelists discuss combating COVID-19 together

Panelists discussed the economics of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to global organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN) and the World Bank in a webinar on March 24. Olaf Unteroberdörster MS ’98, Ph.D ’98, a Brandeis international business school alumnus and division chief at the International Monetary Fund, Elida Reci MA ’99, Governance and Public Administration officer at the United Nations and Andrea Dore MA ’98, head of funding at the World Bank, shared insights on how multinational organizations finance the global recovery from the pandemic. 

When COVID-19 first hit, the World Bank announced its first $12 billion emergency response to 25 under-developing countries. In her time working at the World Bank, Dore said she, “hasn’t seen anything like the speed and magnitude of COVID-19 response.” In April alone, $15 billion was raised for COVID-19 relief funds, including one $8 billion transaction, all from the World Bank. In total, $80 billion for COVID-19 responses was funded across over 20 currencies—this is the largest amount over 75-year history, said Dore. 

Like the World Bank, the IMF donated their funding efforts immediately towards the countries in need, according to Unteroberdörster. He and his team shifted gears quickly when the pandemic hit. They had to pause on the e-board review analysis and started working from home as soon as possible. According to Unteroberdörster, this is something that had never been done before. 

The IMF accepted requests and assistance on parallel effect at the same time, receiving 34 country’s requests compared to three or four previously. Subsidies and interests increased massively, and the IMF was tackling policy and operation issues at the same time, according to Unteroberdörster. A large organization like the UN, oversees many funds, agencies and local offices who took immediate action as well in response to the pandemic, said Reci. They focused on financial assistance, food delivery, health care and putting political leaderships in place. By coordinating their global role at each of the local offices, Reci and her team were able to mobilize past events to the current online form while “it looked like the world can’t function; but it needed to.”

Aside from the pandemic, the panelists mentioned the importance of the political atmosphere the world is currently in. “We entered this global challenge on the edge of multilateral relationships and the rise of nationalism, but seeing countries coming together to work was very encouraging,” Unteroberdörster explained. 

COVID-19 transformed geopolitics and widened the economic inequality to a point that the world has never seen before, a statement agreed by the panelists. They reflected after almost a year of the pandemic and noted that efforts are now being poured into the green recovery, which is done by doing things in a sustainable development way. Ultimately, this allows countries to, “build back better,” according to Dore.

Reci agreed that this wasn’t just a global economic challenge: It was also a challenge of health, humanitarian aid as well as other aspects which are incorporated in this situation. The panelists agreed that countries need to own domestic mobilization by having direct dialogues between leaders and be on the ground for these “once-in-lifetime” events. 

Combating global challenges requires joint team efforts, according to the panelists. The COVID-19 pandemic has made countries better informed of the need for a systemic change to the approach taken and prepared for similar future events.

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