The Next Global Megatrend: Collaboration?

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

April 29, 2022

The rapid advances made in mankind’s progress have been on account of collaboration. From learning agriculture to inventing the wheel, and from space exploration abilities to developing COVID-19 vaccines in record time – these are all outcomes of shared ingenuity. We’ve built on one another’s ideas and innovations, and it is only fitting that collaboration continues to remain a key pillar to sustainable progress. 

The world’s pressing challengesfrom the next global pandemic to climate change to closing the digital dividewill take an “all hands-on deck” approach with players from all sectors working together. How can leaders from business, government and civil society work better together to tackle these tough problems? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Horasis is organizing the Horasis Global Meeting on 19 May 2022 to examine and evaluate such topics. The one-day virtual event will see participation from a diverse range of people, spanning members of governments, businesses, academics, and the media. The goal is to deliberate on pressing issues, and arrive at resolutions that ensure shared prosperity.

Collaboration to Alleviate the COVID-19 Threat

Recent reports suggest the emergence of new COVID-19 variants. Meanwhile, the ongoing lockdown in Shanghai grabbed the limelight when videos of the city’s residents expressing their frustrations were broadcast across media outlets. As COVID-19 rages on, it is imperative for governments worldwide to prioritize pandemic preparedness. Such events are a very real possibility in the near future.

According to the World Health Organization, 22 Western Pacific countries have created plans for pandemic preparedness. Additionally, 92% of countries in the region have facilities to detect “influenza-like illnesses”. Furthermore, there is a global data sharing platform called FluID that enables influenza related data exchanges.

In a clear example of collaborative efforts, the G20 High-Level Independent Panel (HLIP) outlined the need for additional financing to maintain readiness against future outbreaks. According to the HLIP’s estimates, annual financing of US$34 billion is required over the next half decade. The US administration, in particular, has suggested building a US$10 billion global health fund. It said it would take the lead on the initiative by committing US$250 million to the fund that will likely be established with the World Bank.

Vaccine production facilities too must receive upgrades. Although it is not necessary for all countries to establish vaccine manufacturing units, it must be ascertained that emerging economies, that have vaccine knowhow, have sufficient vaccine production capabilities in the event of another pandemic’s onset. It will assist healthcare personnel in undertaking faster inoculation drives. In this regard, the African Union underscored the importance of collective efforts by developing their own program for vaccine purchases. Across the African continent, there is healthcare collaboration underway to build a solid defense against future viruses.

Climate Change Cannot be Arrested in Isolation

NASA scientist Peter Kalmus made an emotional plea, earlier in April 2022. He stated the bulk of people went about their lives with little regard to the severe warnings that climate change experts have issued. “And we’re not joking, we’re not lying, we’re not exaggerating,” Kalmus added to highlight the gravity of the situation.

The impacts of climate change are not going to affect specific regions alone. Its hazardous effects do not discriminate, and are being felt by populations around the world. Numerous governments are signatories to collaborative efforts such as the Paris Climate Accord. Despite well-meaning efforts to lower carbon emissions, there continues to be strong dependency on coal and other fossil fuels. New developments or breakthroughs in renewable energy generation must be shared across economies.

The International Energy Agency promotes collaboration across several renewable energy sources – spanning bioenergy, hydrogen energy, geothermal energy and ocean energy systems. It encourages Technology Collaboration Programs (TCP) that cover spheres such as renewable energy production, storage, distribution, and usage, among others. Launched in 1977, the Hydrogen TCP, for example, “seeks to optimize environmental protection, improve energy security, transform global energy systems and grid management, and promote international economic development, as well as serving as the premier global resource for expertise in all aspects of hydrogen technology.”

Collaboration Must Remain a Core Tenet

In the initial months following COVID-19’s onset, a clear trend was that of developed economies prioritizing their own populations over a more equitable response. Vaccine hoarding by certain countries meant lesser available dosages for residents of less developed countries. A direct consequence, therefore, was the prolonged effects of the virus. Many emerging economies’ healthcare wings were also hard pressed to counter the virus’ effects amid acute shortfalls not only in vaccines but also in diagnostic and intensive care equipment.

The world is faced with several collective threats. Regardless of whether it is healthcare or climate related, or exploring ways and means to bridge digital divides, governments must demonstrate the ability to cooperate and collaborate. Only then can true preparedness be achieved.