April 09, 2020

Towards a new global UN Crisis Response Unit


The Covid-19 crisis shows that the world has a functional medical response system, coordinated by WHO, the World Health Organization,connecting medical agencies at national level and regional levels.
It works. It monitors issues such as epidemics and pandemics, ensures a world-wide communication framework, validates information and coordinates global efforts.
Of course, it is not perfect - it can be improved significantly. But the system exists and it works, and for a functional system, engineering common-sense generally proposes iterative-incremental improvements.
The ”system” is fuzzy and distributed, which makes it imperfect for responding to very specific events – it doesn’t have specific procedures for each potential problem. The advantage is that it is flexible and adaptable to unforeseen situations.

Which made me question: what if this crisis would have been non-medical? What if an environmental, chemical, nuclear, or a volcanic global crisis ? The world has no similar mechanism of cooperation between countries at a global level.
Hence my pledge for a new global Crisis Response Organization, or Unit.

Obviously, we cannot predict or prepare for every possible scenario. But risk and vulnerability theories argues that frameworks help dealing with unknown events, and even unknown unknowns (risks that we don’t know that we don’t know). Having a framework of operation, as we have WHO in the medical area, is already a valid risk mitigation strategy.
The new Crisis Response Unit should ensure communication and information channels between countries, prepare potential response plans, monitor for events and crisis, and coordinate responses to global threats. It would thus increase global systemic resistance to negative events (aka hard-resilience) as well as soft-resilience (i.e. capacity to recover).

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