Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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COVID-19: Importance of Good Governance

Louis Meuleman, a Belgian member of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration, names several lessons essential to addressing Covid-19 and other potential pandemics this century. The following is an excerpt of Meuleman’s article published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development on April 7, 2020. Read the rest of Dr.  Meuleman’s article here: The following article was published in the May-June 2020 issue of NewsNotes

We are rediscovering the public sector

“The first observation is no big surprise. Countries with a functioning public sector that caters for essential health services for all are better equipped to deal with the pandemic than others who have privatized health care. Market-based health care uses the same strategy as retail companies, namely just-in-time delivery, limited stock and high reliance on logistics. This explains why many hospitals in otherwise well-resourced health systems have no emergency stock of protective clothing and facial masks.”
…“So, the first lesson is about the need to reassert the central role of an effective, responsive and capable public sector in responding to society’s needs, building resilience and dealing with crises when they arise.

Effective governance is contextualized

“The second early lesson is about how contextualized effective public governance is. This is also not a big surprise.” … “Governments need to be sensitive to national values and traditions. As Monika Sie observed in the Dutch newspaper NRC of 20 March 2020, people in China reacted differently to the virus than in the Netherlands. In the collectivist culture of China, people wear face masks to protect others, while in the individualist Dutch culture, people wear the same masks to project themselves – if they wear them at all.”…

Rapid systemic transformation is possible

“The third lesson is that rapid and unprecedented systemic transformation is possible in each country, provided that a problem is framed – and broadly felt – as a crisis. A disaster requires the acceptance of a command and control style of leadership.” … 

We are at a crossroads

“We cannot afford to have the Covid-19 stimulus funds support an unsustainable future. Taking the wrong decisions now will be worse than causing delays to achieve the SDGs. It could throw our progress years back, or even prevent a sustainable pathway for the foreseeable future.” …“To conclude, it takes more than markets to bring about sustainable change.”