Global crises need global solutions

Published on Tuesday, 12th of May 2020

The Covid-19 crisis is as global as it gets and so the solutions need to be global. This is why I remain optimistic that the crisis will actually strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation.

CMI’s Chair of the Board Alexander Stubb. Photo: Riku Isohella

”It turns out that the world, for all of its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a world view based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us the most.” – Hans Rosling 2018

Every time there is a serious crisis I take a deep breath and re-read these wise words of the physician Hans Rosling. It’s the eternal optimist in me. I want to find a silver lining, and often I do.

In early 2020 I often wondered what Rosling, who passed away in 2017, would have said about Covid-19. I assume he would have dug up many facts and compared the mortality rates of global pandemics.

He would have most probably reminded us that the Spanish Flu killed an estimated 17—100 million people between 1918 and 1920. He would have also reminded us that we are now better and faster in coming up with vaccines than ever before.

In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity, as Albert Einstein used to say. And I believe he is right. There has been abundant analyses of the economic and political implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, some of it spot on, others completely over the top.

We often have a tendency to overrationalise the past, overdramatise the present and underestimate the future. At CMI we try to take a long-term view and assess the local, national and global implications of any given crisis. We look at past experience, but realise that every situation is different. The same goes for Covid-19. Locally, it is changing many things. In some cases, it has brought families and communities closer together. No matter where you are from, it has forced us to reflect on things that are important in life. In some cases it has been about saving lives, in others about caring for strangers or those close to you.

Most of us miss the human touch. We realise how much we need each other, even in the age of technology. It might be that artificial intelligence and robotisation are doing the more mundane things in our lives, but there is one thing, above all, that only we humans can provide: empathy. This is important in every situation, conflicts included.

Concern over the impact of the pandemic in developing and conflict countries

Nationally, many countries were caught by surprise when the pandemic hit. They were simply not ready. Protective gear, medical staff and general infrastructure were simply not there. We can only hope that most states will learn from such mistakes. With preparation you have half the job done.

Many countries opted for insularity in the early stages of the crisis. This is understandable. There is an urgency to protect your own. As the pandemic progressed, the language used was still about “national crisis”, but most of us understood that viruses do not recognise borders, race, gender or age.

Covid-19 is as global as it gets and so the solutions need to be global. For this reason I am optimistic that the crisis will strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation. There is actually no other option if and when the aim is to save lives and get the economy back on track again. We need international agreements on how to react in similar situations in the future.

Insularity on the economy would be equally ludicrous. Yes, there will be an impact on value chains and production, but this does not mean that we should start setting up barriers to trade or the free movement of goods, services and people. We at CMI are naturally most concerned with the impact of the pandemic in developing countries and areas plagued by conflict. That is why we have been working together with other conflict resolution organisations to make sure that existing crises do not escalate or that new ones emerge.

As an organisation, 2019 was a year of growth for us. Both our budget and staff grew. There was also an increase in requests for CMI to be involved in various stages of peace processes.

In the midst of CMI’s positive developments, we were hit with a great loss. Executive Director Tuija Talvitie passed away at the beginning of 2020. She was truly a great advocate of peace, a leader and a dear friend. I have never met a person with more “sisu” – courage and perseverance – than Tuija. She used to say that our job at CMI is to make the world a better place, everyday. And that is exactly what we intend to do this year, and for many more to come.

Increase the Peace.

The article was published in our Annual Report 2019.