Global Leaders: Cooperation Needed on COVID-19 and Beyond

February 4, 2021 By Jessica Ritchie

For months, leaders and policymakers around the world have been tirelessly making the case for global coordination in the fight against COVID-19. A recent report from the International Chamber of Commerce further emphasizes the need for global collaboration on the pandemic after its findings demonstrated the extreme global economic costs incurred as a result of wealthy countries monopolizing COVID-19 vaccines.

Two scenarios from the study stand out:

  • In the most extreme scenario: Global costs will exceed $9 trillion. This will occur if advanced economies are fully vaccinated in a few months, but emerging developing countries remain largely unvaccinated. In contrast, it would cost just $38 billion to manufacture and distribute the vaccine globally.
  • In the most likely scenario: Global costs range from $1.5 to $4.5 trillion. This can be expected if advanced economies are fully vaccinated in four months, but emerging developing countries are not fully vaccinated by this December. With this, the United States and other advanced economics would bear $0.5 to $2.5 trillion of that cost.

Also weighing in were Bill & Melinda Gates, whose 2021 Annual Letter expressed hope that the shared experience of the COVID-19 pandemic “will lead to a long-term change in the way people think about global health—and help people in rich countries see that investments in global health benefit not only low-income countries but everyone.”

While fighting the pandemic is an international priority, global collaboration is also required to tackle critical and complex challenges facing Americans and the world alike. At the World Economic Forum last week, policymakers from the United States and around the world spoke to the need for global cooperation on health security, countering authoritarianism, humanitarian crises, and climate to solve the most pressing issues affecting Americans’ lives and people all over the globe. A snapshot of their commentary is below.

Global Health Security

Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • On the WHO and global cooperation: “The world needs an organization like the WHO. I believe that with the reforms that we hope the WHO will enact that it will serve as that multi-lateral organization that is absolutely critical. We need global health security; you might recall there’s a global health security agenda. We need transparency, communication and coordination, collaboration, and the solidarity that we all talk about. If we don’t have that, it becomes maybe not impossible, but extremely problematic to address an emerging outbreak.”

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

  • On the role of the private sector: “The private sector has a key role to play in lifting countries out of both the COVID-19 and climate crises.”
  • On equitable vaccine distribution: “Inclusive and sustainable recovery around the globe will depend on the availability and effectiveness of vaccines for all, immediate fiscal and monetary support in both developed and developing countries, and transformative longer-term stimulus measures.”

Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI

  • On global cooperation: “We ended up with 190 countries coming together to work together on [the COVID vaccine], which shows the importance of solidarity—because we’re only safe if everyone is safe.”

Countering Authoritarianism

U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)

  • On alliances and multilateralism: “When we look at the global challenges that are facing the United States…the whole range of issues really can be addressed fast when we do it shoulder to shoulder with our allies… Alliances and global institutions … can hold [adversarial] actors to account so that they both benefit from being a part of the global world order, but they do so … behaving in a responsible way. I certainly think that we are seeing an era of better relations with our allies. And it makes us stronger on a foreign policy and national security front when you’re working together.”

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

  • On alliances: “That’s going to be important – things like reestablishing strong ties with NATO. Working multilaterally is important… especially when it comes to protecting and defending ourselves against unfair Chinese trade practices. How do we defend ourselves economically, strengthen alliances, build a military that isn’t stuck in the 20th century… to deter Chinese activity, malign activity so that we don’t end up in any kind of an armed conflict?”
  • On bipartisanship: “[T]he core group in Congress [and] in the White House understands areas where we can all work together are really beneficial to America and our allies.”

Humanitarian Crises

David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program

  • On rising food insecurity: “COVID exacerbated a vulnerable supply chain system and food system, of which so much success has been made, but it’s very vulnerable. We’ve got a lot more work to do because what leaders are now beginning to recognize is this is the reality we’re facing in 2021, with 270 million people on the brink of starvation. If we don’t receive the support and funds that we need, you will have mass famine, starvation, you will have destabilization of nations, and you will have mass migration. And the cost of that is 1000 times more.”

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Director

  • On the growing divide between wealthy and poorer countries: “There is this chasm between the developed world and the developing world – there’s a lack of investment in the developing world. We as a world are going to need to help the countries in the developing world for their readiness if we are really going to reach everyone, if this is going to be safe, fast, equitable, and reach everyone, and [be] affordable.”


John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change

  • On global engagement: “[Rejoining the Paris Agreement] alone is not enough… [D]omestic action cannot possibly be enough if we don’t together forge an international strategy to galvanize the world to drive greater ambition for every country, every sector and ensure that the clean energy future we need is global in scope and scale. The whole world has to come to this table to solve the problem.”
  • On combating climate change: “Success means tapping into the best of global ingenuity creativity and diplomacy from brain power to alternative energy power using every tool we have to get where we need to go. Zero emissions future offers remarkable opportunity for business for clean, green jobs for economic growth and, to use the President’s words, to build back better from a global economic crisis.”