Gayle Smith is the president and CEO of ONE. We interviewed Gayle as part of our #PassTheMic series.
Here’s some of what she had to say.
Coronavirus is currently running faster than we are — which means it’s winning. So we’ve got to outpace it. We need to tackle the pandemic everywhere. At the very least that means knitting together national strategies, sharing information and expertise, and operating in sync.
The other thing we need to think about globally is the economic impact. Every country on the planet is feeling the economic shocks from this pandemic — the primary shocks of the health crisis itself, but also the secondary shocks, such as supply chains breaking and other disruptions. So we need solutions.
We need enough capital in the market, and we must have a way to tackle the needs of people who may be unable to work and protect those who must work. We need ways to rebuild, because this pandemic is doing a lot of damage.
We also need to consider global health security. Not every country has the capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to coronavirus, so we’ve got to build that.
If you’re collaborating, it doesn’t feel as insurmountable
Even when you think you’re up against the greatest odds, if you find that you’re collaborating with others, the odds don’t feel quite as insurmountable.
As we’ve seen with communities and people all over the world, solidarity is one of the most moving outcomes of this crisis.
I think countries and world leaders would find if they coordinated and shared information, strategized, and knocked out plans, it would reduce the burden that each is feeling in terms of managing the crisis. I would also say it’s the right thing to do. As we’ve seen with communities and people all over the world, solidarity is one of the most moving outcomes of this crisis.
None of us are safe until all of us are safe, and if this virus is moving around unchecked in certain parts of the world, then all parts of the world are vulnerable.
One of the best examples of what can be done together is on the vaccine front. Here’s what could happen: a vaccine could be developed in a country and we could see wealthier countries buy it all up very quickly.
That would be a gross injustice to probably billions of people on the planet, but that would also be silly, because if you just vaccinate a subset of the world’s population, you’ve still got the virus spreading around.
So now the world has the opportunity — and I would argue the obligation — to plan and be prepared for how we are going to make sure we’ve got manufacturing costs covered and the distribution of a vaccine globally, as soon as it becomes available.
Protecting those who are worst affected
Our main priority for a global response needs to be first and foremost defeating the virus. That means taking care of people. It means testing, contact tracing, and social distancing where possible.
But it also means taking care of the people who are the worst affected. In a crisis like this, the virus hits hardest at the people and the countries that are least able to withstand it. So, whether you’re in the United States and it’s the rising numbers of people who are joining the numbers of the unemployed, whether it’s people who are running out of work or don’t have the cash to buy food. Or if you’re talking about the other side of the globe, where many people work in the informal sector, there’s the same pressures.
You’ve got to meet those emergency needs of citizens.
The world is not yet united in this fight
If we have a really good response to the virus in some countries, but not others, then the virus is still winning.
Maybe you have a response to people in need in some countries and not others; then poverty and disenfranchisement is on the rise. Maybe some economies are bolstered, and others aren’t; then you’ve got a global economy that is still a mess.
What keeps me up at night is that the world is not yet united in its fight against this pandemic.
What gives me cause for hope is that citizens all over the world are educating themselves.
However, what gives me cause for hope is that citizens all over the world are educating themselves. They are taking matters into their own hands where they can. Whether it’s trying to prevent the spread of the virus, helping other people, or deepening their own knowledge.
I think that citizens all over the world are going to demand better out of this.
These excerpts from the interview were edited for length and clarity.
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