Preparing for an Unknown World

Author:Era Dabla-Norris, Vitor Gaspar, and Kalpana Kochhar
Position:ERA DABLA-NORRIS is a division chief in the IMF's Asia-Pacific Department; VITOR GASPAR is director of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department; and KALPANA KOCHHAR is director of the IMF's Human Resources Department.

We must collectively work toward resolving the problems exposed by the crisis.

We must have cooperation, collaboration; utilize the
machinery, the instrum entalities, that have been set up
to provide succor to those who are h ungry and ill; to
set up, establish instrumentalities t hat will stabilize or
tend toward stabilization of econ omies of our world.
Fred Vinson (US delegate at Bretton Woods,
future Supreme Court chief justic e)
Commission I, 1944
Had I been present at the Creation , I would have given
some useful hints for the bett er ordering of the universe.
—Alfonso X, K ing of Spain, 1252–1284
nce COVID-19 abates, we will be
reminded of how everything changed,
of the world that was. But the unfolding
crisis contains profound lessons for the
future. When internationa l delegates met at Bretton
Woods in July 1944 to devise a postwar world, the
war was stil l far from over. Yet, recallin g the missed
opportunities that had followed t he previous world
war, they understood that the focu s had to shift
from ending the war to establishing new founda-
tions. Today’s global economy faces very dierent
challenges, but importa nt parallels remain. Urgency
and speed of action are as cruci al as the need to
mobilize resources at rea l scale.
ere are large unk nowns about how long it will
take to develop and deploy eective vacc ines, the
duration and likelihood of repeat outbrea ks and
lockdowns, and the eventua l economic ramica-
tions. Even so, it is possible to identify some xed
points for an international post– COVID-19 order.
First, international collaboration on mount-
ing eect ive public heal th responses that rely
on solid scie ntic cons ensus on d isease cau ses
and mitigatio n is vital. Triumphs of interna-
tional cooperation prior to this pandem ic centered
on public-private health initiatives that counted
transparency, accountability, and broad engage-
ment as hallmark s. Examples include the Global
Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, t he
Global Allia nce for Vaccines and Immunization,
and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and
Innovation. Governments would do well to reect
on what went wrong this time and tr y to understand
how funding for projects in the public interest ca n
build on existing initiatives. is could help drive
research and development of vaccines a nd diagnos-
tics for future dise ase outbreaks.
Public health responses require a u niversal focus
on pandemics. Emerging market and developing
economies, many of which are grossly i ll-equipped
to combat the current health and economic shock,
are increasingly on the f ront lines of the spread of
We must collectively work toward resolving the problems exposed by the crisis
Era Dabla-Norris, Vitor Gaspar, and Kalpana Kochhar

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