Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Looking beyond our current global crises and their specifics – 55

Posted in macroeconomics, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on March 18, 2023

This is my 55th installment to a series in which I discuss the turning point challenges and crises that are coming to define our emerging 21st century, and our long-term future. See United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) for Parts 1-54 of this.

I offered a briefly stated list of ten topic points in Part 31 that I presented as “mapping out some of the more detailed requirements of an overall resolution of this combined global challenge.” I have offered at least initial responses to the first six of them since then. And I have been addressing the seventh of them in Parts 40 through 54, leading up to here:

7. We need to encourage and reward efforts that would help us to achieve more just and inclusive societies where this will have to be grounded in inclusion that breaks and ends our ongoing zero-sum, use-versus-them divides.

I have been discussing the World Health Organization as a specific agency of the United Nations in this context in Parts 47-54, as a particularly important case in point example of what should be one mission defined component in a larger overall system here. And that line of discussion led me to this set of more subsidiary topics points:

1. What an organization such as the World Health Organization might be able to do here for its specific contributions to addressing these now four scenarios and more,
2. Its possible role in developing and carrying out larger necessary remediative efforts that would address global public health challenging scenarios in general,
3. And for how it would work with other types of organizations and agencies: locally and globally in collectively carrying out any and all of such actions,
4. And ideally, even in the face of the emergence of disruptively new and unexpected types of public health crisis scenarios.
5. And looking further ahead, I will offer some thoughts on the larger, more comprehensive system of interconnected agencies that would be called for here, in addressing the healthcare and public health and other challenges that I have been writing about here, and certainly since Part 47 – but also throughout this series.

I have briefly addressed the first of those points in Part 54 and in postings leading up to it, and with their combined narrative at least briefly outlining in general terms, a set of “What is needed” issues that the WHO has to find ways to effectively resolve if it is to succeed in its overall global public health mission. And my goal here is to turn to the above subtopic Point 2, where my goal is to discuss the How of doing that, where coordinating larger multilevel efforts are essential.

That organizational level understanding is, at least, how I expressed this at the end of Part 54 when offering my to-address next note in anticipation of what I would discuss here. I actually begin this posting, however, by pointing out that responding to our global crises will call for the effective, mutually supportive collaborative participation of a wide range of functionally specialized agencies and organizations that collectively work at local on up to global levels of direct responsibility. The WHO is simply one element in this needed system that happens to take a global organizing role in one particular area of need here: public health. So the How issue, or rather complex of such issues that I cited at the end of Part 54 is in fact a lot more complex and nuanced than was stated there. And actually addressing it here, and from the perspective of this one organization, calls for a coordinated discussion of at least four sets of issues:

• The local and national agencies and organizations that would seek to directly address public health needs and challenges in their geographic areas of responsibility and how they would connect into and work with the WHO.
• The larger multi-agency global system that the WHO itself would work with where it becomes such a lower level contributing agency itself.
• And what the WHO would do in carrying out its varying roles in all of this, and both in directly addressing its public health responsibilities, and in providing support to other types of functionally distinct agencies where public health issues impact on what they seek to do. And that boundary crossing support would of course go both ways where for example, addressing the issues of zoonotic disease transfers from wild animal species to humans would call for widely multidisciplinary, multiagency approaches.
• Synergies are important, and both for how understanding how seemingly separate and disparate aspects of our overall challenges exacerbate each other, and for enabling and improving response efforts across such apparent boundaries too.

This list in fact recapitulates much of what I have proposed to address in the entire set of five numbered subtopic points as just repeated above here. So my goal here is to focus on one small part of all of that, and on the World Health Organization itself. And I begin addressing that set of issues by emphasizing its role as part of a larger system that would address larger, more wide-ranging challenges than any one specialized agency or organization could possibly manage – while still taking direct ownership responsibility for its particular role in all of this. And I begin doing so, by considering one of the greatest sources of weakness and challenge that the WHO has exhibited in its response to COVID-19 as a global pandemic challenge.

• A global organization such as the WHO can never perform more effectively than the more local and national agencies and organizations that it depends upon for its functioning.

This means the quality and completeness of the basic epidemiological and related information that it receives. That includes the level of support that WHO personnel are afforded when they go on-site, and when they seek to work with their local and national organizational counterparts. That depends on the levels of performance that are even possible locally and nationally and from country to country, where those capabilities can be significantly lacking and certainly in have-not nations. But nationalism and partisan politics can and do create barriers and limitations there too, and even to the extent that at times, government leaders block the effective, accurate sharing of the epidemiological data that they do have and for partisan ideological reasons.

How can these problems best be addressed? One part of the answer to that is obvious. No single functional entity such as the World Health Organization can resolve any of these challenges on its own. And that applies in have-not nations that would willingly enter into and support necessary change there, but that are fundamentally limited in what they are capable of doing, without extensive outside support. And it applies with at-least equal force in nations that could afford to carry out at least elements of such change on their own initiative and from their own resources and finances, but that refuse to participate – and even when they have infrastructure in place that could be used for this, in collecting and organizing more accurate and up to date epidemiological data for example.

I add that barriers to follow-through in use of the epidemiological and related data that is available, can be just as problematical and more. Though this is consequential to the information and communications failures that I primarily focus upon here.

And this brings me to the first-step initial broken leg of the three legged stool collapse of this. There is a lack of necessary local and national support that would feed essential information to the WHO as a global healthcare organization, limiting its ability to make meaningful prioritized decisions. And that hampers any potential follow-through and even when that would be locally and nationally supported.

We also face an ongoing challenge of inadequate funding in support of World Health Organization and its functioning, as touched upon in recent installments here. And there is insufficient effectively coordinated integrated action where interagency and inter-organizational planning and action are needed, connecting specialized resources such as the WHO into larger systems, needed for addressing larger more complex problems.

I have positioned this posting’s discussion in terms of the first of three legs in a briefly stated three legged stool metaphor, offering it as a perhaps first destabilizing break there, where stability cannot be possible when there is systemic failure there. Absent meaningful, reliable, timely information, no one can know in an accurate and timely manner what to do about any of this or how, or with what priorities. Effective overall remediation becomes impossible if those who would plan for it, approve it, finance it and carry it out through coordinated action, would have to do so absent the basic information that they need to start from.

But gathering in and validating and sharing this information can only be a start here.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in the next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2, Page 3, Page 4 and Page 5 continuations. And you can also find this and related material at my directory: United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID).

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