Expert Dialogue on Shaping Resilient Societies, 12.11.2020

A multistakeholder approach to resilience

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for the society as a whole, transcending sectorial barriers. This unparalleled situation enhances the need to tackle the concept of resilience. In this context, and within the frames of the UNIGE-UZH strategic partnership, a multistakeholder initiative was launched to shape resilient societies. In collaboration with the Geneva Science Policy Interface (GSPI), the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and selected international organizations, a first Expert Meeting took place on 12 November 2020, bringing together more than 60 experts in different fields.  




As Covid-19 has heterogeneous implications, blurring boundaries between public and private, national and international interests, the initiative aims at breaking up silos and at giving priority to a transversal approach. It thus seeks to provide scientific evidence to policy formulators and decision makers.


On the positive side, this unique situation resulting out of a pandemic, reaffirms the need of a high-level international involvement and sparks new multidisciplinary collaborations. How to foster these collaborations? How to facilitate the cooperation between the different stakeholders? The sixty experts discussed new interdisciplinary paths towards making societies more responsive and better prepared within the following thinking groups: (1) Health system strengthening; (2) Global health law, human rights and ethics; (3) Governance Mechanisms for Access & Use of Data in Public Health Crises; (4) Building Socio-Economic Resilience to Global Shocks; (5) Turning point COVID-19: Re-shaping healthcare to successfully battle epidemics and pandemics; (6) Pandemics, Climate and Sustainability.


Transversality and mutual benefits

Because one particular issue can have so many dimensions to it, sectors should not be isolated in the implementation of long-term solutions to make societies more resilient. For instance, sustainability cannot be addressed without considering the perspectives of people, the planet and profit.


Experts agreed that all sectors should work together transversally towards a common goal. Finding mutual benefits seems therefore the key to creating powerful alliances and generating innovative impact.


Science as a radar system

Experts agreed that the pandemic amplifies the need to include the scientific community in the decision-making process. Even if Covid-19 has created a favourable environment to foster joint efforts, this cooperation has to be further strengthened and facilitated. To this end, participants agreed on the crucial need to create a stronger interface between the scientific community and policy formulators and decision-makers. To further enhance its accessibility, science should also be more approachable to a larger public.


Building resilient societies is not just about finding solutions in times of crisis. It is about preparing societies to potential future shocks. Scientists should thus serve as a radar system and work closely with policy and decision makers in the risk assessment and management process, from an early stage on.


Local to global, global to local

Generating global impacts towards resilience must be based on equity and solidarity. With this in mind, the experts specifically acknowledged the importance of including local and vulnerable communities to the path to resilience. The latter would have to be, in particular, protected by strong human rights.


Vulnerable communities should not only be protected, they should serve as an example. Indeed, some participants drew attention to the difficulty to act upon the lessons learned. Conclusions are, even though often similar, global solutions often fail to be implemented. The solution to this problem seems to lie within the local level. Indeed, experts agree on the added value to coordinate local initiatives in order to co-create changes globally.


Through ongoing and future joint activities, the 60 experts continue to build bridges between sectors, nations and disciplines in order to encourage the societies to pave the way for upcoming future challenges.


Picutre credit for the header: World Economic Forum

Picture credit for the article: Mirko Bozzato