As some governments and their administrations, individuals, and science systems begin to adapt to COVID-19, the struggle still continues in many countries. With that, the world is slowly leveraging the insights this pandemic has offered, standing at the cusp of a new world, which faces multiple stressors and is in need of more resilient governance.
Globally, national governments were put under the microscope. Some, such as Singapore and South Korea, succeeded with evidence-based, swift national leadership coupled with clear crisis communication. This proved useful for containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and with it brought necessary recovery initiatives. In other countries, such as the United States, tackling the crisis has been characterized by governance challenges, including crisis plans with layers of shared responsibility being ignored in favour of “management by panic” approaches.
The pandemic has highlighted the flaws of neoliberal governance that prioritises economic growth, deregulation and a separation between people and nature ahead of policies centred around human and ecosystem health and wellbeing.
To this effect, the ISC-IIASA Enhancing Governance for Sustainability Report goes beyond just considering the roles and responsibilities of governments, and adopts a broader definition of governance as, “the totality of actors, rules, conventions, processes, and mechanisms concerned with how relevant…information is collected, analyzed and communicated, and how management decisions are taken”.
In a world confronted with future risks such as spiralling climate change, ecosystem collapse and dwindling resources, global governance needs to be reformed.
The report states that the global community needs to engage in multidirectional and more integrated learning, problem identification and decision-making. This should enable the shift towards more sustainable and equitable development in an ever-riskier world.
A disease with no respect for borders requires a collective response, said Volkan Bozkir, President of the United Nations General Assembly, adding that, “COVID-19 is a practice test that exhibits our weaknesses; we must build resilience now for whatever comes tomorrow.”
The pandemic highlighted widespread global fragmentation, which was initially observed through uncoordinated and sometimes competing actions. The report explains that organizations and agencies with similar objectives fought over resources, when instead they should have been bridging their divides and working cooperatively to eliminate competition. In the meantime, as the divide is bridged, special crisis provisions should be established for activation in case urgent action is needed again.
The report also recommends strengthening science–policy interactions to enable evidence-based decision-making, in which science systems collaborate with governments at all governance levels. Global and regional collaboration is especially important given the uneven scientific capabilities across countries and the need to tackle the pandemic everywhere to achieve health outcomes for all.
Working effectively at the interface of science and policy has been a challenge for many countries, which warrants further investigation. However, scientists have tried to step up to the challenges in some unprecedented ways.
For example, online repositories started making COVID-19 studies as pre-prints so that their findings could be used by all scientists quickly. As a result, researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences, and several hundreds of clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.
Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, referred to international scientific collaboration in reference to COVID-19, as the “engine of global science” and said, “It is thus crucial that scientific responses are based on international collaboration that brings together the best minds and available data from different countries for the benefit of all”
Therefore, to reform global governance, evidence-sharing arrangements need to be centred on a global level with reliable evidence, which must be made available swiftly in times of crises. In order for this to happen, the report recommends the creation of specialized advisory bodies that offer consultations on a regular and on-demand basis. The report also suggests involving diverse stakeholder perspectives in these consultations.
Another key point to enhancing sustainable governance is risk reduction management, which should be a fundamental component of decision-making and a part of the investment in sustainable development. The report states that a global socio-ecological resilience and risk dialogue should be launched, engaging policy-makers, civil society, the private sector, and the scientific community in mapping risks and their drivers at different scales and discussing their implications for risk governance, prevention and preparedness. Such an engagement process would increase the understanding and communication of the compound, systemic nature of risks driven by infectious diseases, climate change and other socio-ecological stressors.
“A more holistic approach to risk that better takes into account the many intricate links between nature and people is sorely needed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”– Anne-Sophie Stevance, ISC
Unifying fragmented global organizations and governance, forming scientific evidence-based policies with the help of science systems, and enhancing levers pertaining to risk management are only some of the recommendations in the report. For more information on upgrading risk governance read the ISC-IIASA Enhancing Governance For Sustainability Report.
You might also be interested in:
The ISC Action Plan project, Science and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, aims to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda through support for interactions-based research and policy prioritization and programming at all levels of governance. The report on Hazard Definition and Classification Review is a key step in this process.
You can also watch the discussion on Learning from COVID-19 and upgrading sustainable governance as part of the launch event for the Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID World, which explores the key themes of Sustainable Energy, Governance for Sustainability, Strengthening Science Systems and Resilient Food Systems.
World Climate Research Programme launches a Lighthouse Activity on Climate Intervention Research
How COP28 failed the world’s small islands
The International Science Council appoints 100 new Fellows to help advance its vision of science as a global public good
Fostering tomorrow’s science: the ISC's engagements with Early and Mid-Career Researchers in 2023
"What's holding us back?": how economists and social scientists might hold the key to climate action
Podcast with Cory Doctorow: Science Fiction and the Future of Science: Leveraging Digital Advancements for the Future
Podcast with Fernanda Trías: Science Fiction and the Future of Science: Lessons from an Eco-Dystopia
New ISC policy brief: A call for a formal scientific voice in the global fight against plastic pollution
Final Evaluation Report: LIRA 2030 Africa
FAO and the International Science Council join forces to strengthen science-policy interfaces for agrifood systems
Podcast with Karen Lord: Science Fiction and the Future of Science: Long-Term Thinking in Policy-making
Policy Brief: Creating a Strong Interface between Science, Policy and Society to Tackle Global Plastic Pollution
Request for nominations: The social determinants of mental wellbeing in young people - deadline 17 November
Cultivating a proactive approach to crises: first meeting of the UNEP/ISC foresight expert panel
"The making of the Golden Record of our century": daring to pursue mission-oriented science
To achieve sustainable development, the world needs to mobilize around a big science approach once more
Proclamation of the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly
Sustainability in the Digital Age
Global science needs a new approach to tackle climate change and complex sustainability question
Ambitious global $1 billion per year ‘mission science’ model needed to win on sustainable development in time, warn experts
Charting a New Course: Science Day to Pioneer Evidence-Based Strategies for SDG Acceleration at the HLPF 2023
A Model for Implementing Mission Science for Sustainability: proposed by the Technical Advisory Group to the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability
Frontiers Planet Prize, second edition: celebrating the world’s most innovative sustainability scientists by 1 November
Protecting the ocean: 5 essential reads on invasive species, overfishing and other threats to sea life
The ISC at the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution
Nurturing a Sustainable Future: Collaboration, Empowerment, Trust, and Resilience in Science at the ISC Mid-term Members Meeting
From Antarctica to Space: updates from Affiliated Bodies on Day 3 of ISC Mid-term meeting
Unprecedented and Unfinished, Second Edition
ISC's nomination track ensures transdisciplinary and global representation in UNEP's Scientific Advisory Group for GEO-7 Assessment
Rebalancing Waste Management Governance in Cities with Informal Systems: Engaging Local Stakeholders and Academics through Transdisciplinary Research
Launch of the LIRA 2030 Africa reports highlighting key achievements and lessons learned from advancing transdisciplinary science in Africa
LIRA 2030 Africa: Learning from Practising Transdisciplinary Research for Sustainable Development in African Cities
UN 2023 Water Conference carries new engagements towards realizing SDG6 and future avenues for a decade of action
IPCC report: the world must cut emissions and urgently adapt to the new climate realities
Delivering actionable and science-based water solutions: new ISC policy brief launched ahead of the 2023 UN Water Conference
ISC-BBC StoryWorks partnership ends on a high note, delivering some of the highest engagement for the BBC
Science policy advice in times of crisis
Towards a New Urban Health Science
Call to engage in Voluntary National Reviews
Distinguished lecture series - From fire to space - Basic sciences lead and shape our paths toward sustainable development
In wake of ‘natural’ disasters, not reducing biodiversity loss is a big missed opportunity
International Science Council deplores the exclusion of women from university education in Afghanistan and urges the Afghan authorities to reverse their decision
The ISC and UNEP to cooperate on advancing the use of science in environmental policy and decision-making
Science in Times of Crisis Episode 2 - The Current Clash: Science and the National Interest.
There are 8 years left to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but is it enough time?
Stories of transformations to sustainability
Happy birthday to the Montreal Protocol – the most successful environmental treaty of all time?
Funding for resilience: Five key objectives to protect vulnerable groups through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Investing
Cycling towards sustainable development
Science for Stockholm +50
COVID-19 likely to worsen inequalities for at least five years without renewed global cooperation, warns International Science Council
Three things to know about how Intellectual Property can contribute to sustainability transitions
The climate crisis is a health crisis
New Technical Advisory Group to support the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability
Global Forum of Funders
Funding Science for Global Sustainability
World Water Day - March 22
Systemic Risk Briefing Note highlights complexity of interconnected, interdependent, and uncertain challenges
From educators to inventors
Women Leading on Equitable and Inclusive Solutions to address the Climate Emergency: Webinar
The window for climate action to avoid dangerous systemic risks is narrowing, warns latest IPCC report
Celebrating World Pulses Day 2022
Approaching education from a new direction
Our most popular stories from 2021
The “clocks” COVID-19 set ticking
The International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly for 2022
Salim Abdool Karim, renowned epidemiologist and the ISC's new Vice President for Outreach and Engagement, talks "Omicron" with the Lancet
World Philosophy Day: Addressing science scepticism requires a stronger understanding of the philosophy of science
Science as a Global Public Good
Strengthening the resilience of our global food system while advancing its transformation
The global vectors of uncertainty that will influence the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic: results of the regional experts' discussions
COVID-19’s ticking clock
Enhancing Policy-making During an Emergency
Navigating towards sustainability: how research networks can make a difference using the ‘network compass’
Reconciling radical and feasible responses to societal emergencies: learning from COVID-19
We're in the midst of a global wake-up call
Critical social science perspectives on transformations to sustainability – emerging framings and approaches
A response to The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s new report on the international health response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has sparked new relationships between academia and policymakers – we must maintain them
Restructuring the food system after COVID-19
Working scientist podcast: Democratizing knowledge and access to tools for sustainable development
Rethinking Energy Solutions
Resilient Food Systems
Strengthening Science Systems
Enhancing Governance for Sustainability
Call for Action: Managing the Infodemic
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission launches the Global Ocean Science Report 2020
Kyoto Landslide Commitment launched to increase understanding on how to reduce landslide risk
ISC and Sustainability in the Digital Age partner to drive transformative system changes for an equitable world
Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
What are your latest findings and strategies to address the COVID-19 crisis, including for vaccine deployment?
Global Young Academy promote sustainable solutions to problems within global health and higher education
Transformation to Sustainability: Integrating Indigenous and Western knowledge systems for water management and governance
Call for nominations: ISC Awards Programme
Fighting COVID-19 in the Brazilian Amazon has exposed multiple threats and vulnerabilities – but also hope
Lessons from existing disaster risk and recovery research should inform equitable and sustainable pathways out of the pandemic
What’s the point of virus taxonomy?
The World Pandemic Research Network - Addressing the societal and human impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
From COVID-19 crisis comes opportunity to rethink risk - by Heide Hackmann, ISC CEO and Mami Mizutori, Secretary-General UNDRR
Innovative technologies and post-Coronavirus economic recovery: A global value chains perspective
Biodiversity as insurance: aligning economic stimulus packages with long-term nature conservation goals. A Corona Sustainability Compass blog by Jasper Meya
Why intellectual property needs urgent attention from policy makers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Saths Cooper: We Are All In This Together
Covid-19 and Access to Scientific Knowledge
Bridging the gap in science communication
The Pandemic and the Global Economy
COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard Nature to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics
Coalition for Environmental Sustainability in support of the UN’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation
Addressing the equity, freedom and sustainability deficits to maintain social progress despite COVID-19
Use the economic stimulus package to build resilient, climate-friendly economic structures
Risks and opportunities in responding to the coronavirus crisis - by Prof. Dr. Dirk Messner
A Data Ecosystem to Defeat COVID-19
SDG interactions as a national policy driver
COVID-19 and global dimensions of inequality
Tackling Climate Change with COVID-19 Urgency - by ISC Patron, Mary Robinson and ISC President, Daya Reddy
Four major international data organizations join forces to optimize the research data ecosystem, launching a COVID-19 appeal as their first joint action
Building resilience against biological hazards and pandemics: COVID-19 and its implications for the Sendai Framework
Koi Tū, the virus and the future
Understanding the different characteristics of African cities will be crucial in responding effectively to COVID-19 on the continent
Why we need a UN charter
Our Common Digital Future
Funding Science for Sustainability
The triumphs and trials of transdisciplinary research: reflections on the un-disciplining of disciplines
How to bring clean energy to informal settlements: Co-designing sustainable energy solutions in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa
Future of Science: Voices from our partners
Future of science: Voices from our partners
Future of science: Voices from our partners
SDG Interactions, gender, science-policy interface: ICSU at the High Level Political Forum
First UN Oceans conference highlights urgency to address marine pollution, warming and over-fishing
New report from scientific experts provides a unique guide to translate Sustainable Development Goals into reality
ICSU at the U.N. Ocean Conference
Sustainable Development Goals
Call for pre-proposals: Advancing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities in Africa
Call for Nominations for the Scientific Committee for the Urban Health and Wellbeing programme
GSDR report launches in France – High level event and workshop co-organized by ICSU, UNDESA, IDDRI and IRD
Global Sustainable Development Goals need clearer, more measurable targets, according to new report from science experts
2015 is the International Year of Light
Landmark scientifc data conference ends with strong support of data sharing for sustainability
Nature publishes paper on SDGs by team of authors from ICSU, IGBP and other organisations
Paper published on ICSU's programme on Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment
Science Plan on Sustainable Energy – ICSU Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
ICSU and Sustainable Development (2006)
ICSU Scientific meetings probe global issues