Mario Monti: Learning Lessons from the Pandemic to Improve International Coordination in the Future

Mario Monti: Learning Lessons from the Pandemic to Improve International Coordination in the Future


The World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe has convened a pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development to re-think policy priorities based on the experience of the Covid19 pandemic. Chaired by Bocconi University President Mario Monti, from August 2020 the Commission is bringing together former heads of states and governments, life scientists and economists, heads of health and social care institutions, leaders of the business community, and financial institutions. Supported by a Scientific Advisory Board, the Commission will collect and review the work of researchers, practitioners and scientists from across the region and produce a report in September 2021. There is plenty of room to improve international coordination, Professor Monti tells viaSarfatti25.
➜  How did European institutions react to Covid19? What did they do well, and what could they have done differently?
Like everybody else, they were basically taken by surprise. As part of our work at the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, we will provide recommendations to improve international cooperation on health issues, both at the broader level, and at the narrower and more intensive EU level. Repeated episodes have shown a lack of cooperation from the very start, regarding the standards of assessment of the existence of Covid19 and the degree of progress of this illness, and - even more obviously - the deficiency of coordination, when all member states tended to protect their citizens first. Which is an automatic and obvious reaction. Even within the EU, countries have introduced restrictions of movement of people, and restrictions of goods (where medical equipment is concerned). And now in this phase of fighting - let’s say a positive - race on vaccines, the approach tends to be nationalistic and not broadly coordinated. There is plenty to do here.

➜  What is the mission of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development?
We hope to create a forum for discussion about how to link this current disaster with future policies, and to incorporate this into our thinking so that the pandemic is not seen as a one-off. We are going to conduct a broad analysis looking at many pieces of the puzzle. We will consult with experts from around the world, including those from non-European countries not members of our Commission, in whose thinking we are interested. And we will also hear and consult stakeholders in the health care systems. We are a non-remunerated multidisciplinary grouping that is fully independent of the World Health Organization itself, and also of the governments of member states. Our proposals and recommendations will only be worth their capacity to persuade. They cannot be imposed, because we are not a decision-taking body. Our report will be adopted by our Commission in full independence. It will be made public. The WHO may concur or not concur with some recommendations. Our objective is to hopefully show roads and avenues, or narrow streets, that governments may not have considered. And we also want to increase the awareness in broad public opinion of certain phenomenon. It’s forward-looking, and not about making country-specific recommendations about what was done well or not.

➜  What issues will the Commission be looking at in addition to improving international coordination?
We want to look at how the concept of a healthy development should be increasingly integrated into a notion of sustainable development. Not only placing more emphasis on health in defining development, but also in examining a number of mutual relationships between these two things. For example, what are the consequences for sustainable development from this health crisis? They may be huge. This pandemic is also shaking the foundations of people’s confidence in the future. Are spending plans of families, of individuals and in the business sector going to be unchanged? Or have we been injected with a sort of “negative vaccine” which increases our perception of weakness, fragility and unpredictability that will slow spending and investment for years to come? Therefore it is crucial to identify policies in countries, at the European level and at the global level that can, first of all, reduce the probability of new pandemics in the future; and second, help find ways for society and politics to deal with them in a better, prompter and more coordinated manner the next time (and there may well be a next time) so as to reduce the impact not only in terms of human lives, but also to the economy and the prospects for growth. The subtitle of the commission is “Rethinking policy priorities in the light of pandemics.”  The role of health, but also the role of trying to safeguard the environment. There might be a link between deterioration of the environment and the eruption of pandemics. That’s why the Commission is so multidisciplinary. It is crucial to recognize the importance of strong health and social care systems in making this all happen, and that they not be taken for granted amid competing policy priorities.

➜  The virus moved faster than the World Health Organization could, making the WHO vulnerable to criticism that it could have done more. As a person with experience in international institutions, what do you think are the flaws in our global health governance system?
The fact that viruses travel unimpeded shows that globalization can bring both positives and negatives.  Like all human phenomena, globalization needs to be governed. In the last several decades, mechanisms have been created to manage events in a multilateral system: the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WHO.  Global health management, in our view, is largely insufficient and not fully effective. But still there are people who say that the effort to govern phenomenon with a multilateral governance has gone wrong. We have seen, particularly in the last four years in the U.S., a very critical reconsideration of this semi-finished global governance.We are at an extremely critical and delicate juncture. What some people think is too little coordinated governance, far too little, is seen as excessive by others. This is an even more fundamental problem than Covid. It concerns the whole concept of whether this globalized world can be managed in a cooperative manner or not.

by Jennifer Clark

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