Round table – Respecting the human security in times of crisis: good practices and lessons learned
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis, as it generates economic, social and even political crises. The latest events caused by the COVID-19 virus have provided a ground for rethinking what human security is. This security consists of reducing poverty, ensuring economic growth and opportunities, access to education, affordable healthcare, respect for human rights, personal and community security, access to legit information, etc.
Increasingly, the shocking events of recent months – infections, deaths, blockages and economic collapse – have tested the traditional concept of national security, when citizens are safe, where states rely on military power, political and economic power. The crisis proves that existing security structures cannot fully protect citizens from an “invisible” threat that transcends borders, devastates countries and changes the conditions of everyday life. In various developed and developing countries, the most vulnerable suffer from the economic impact of the crisis.
In many states, with the easing of anti-epidemic restrictions, the spread of the infection is intensifying. According to experts, the pandemic could continue throughout 2020. Under these conditions, Moldova urgently needs to develop prevention and control measures. It is necessary to identify measures that have been successfully implemented in other states, which have partially reopened some segments of the economy.
The state of emergency in public health could be prolonged. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. As the number of Covid-19 cases increases, so does the population’s distrust, which is fueled by conspiracy theories, misinformation, and a lack of effective government communication.
The purpose of the round table was to propose recommendations and share the experience of states with functional systems to ensure the functioning of the main areas in crisis situations, to identify what are the best practices and lessons learned that can be adopted by Moldova.
The USA, Germany, Estonia, Romania are NATO member states. NATO is demonstrating that some military structures, due to their potential for dual use and readiness, can react quickly in civilian emergencies as well. Thus, it provides disaster response in an efficient, timely manner, thus ensuring assistance and responding to the needs of the affected population.
Hundreds of thousands of troops supported civilian efforts throughout the Alliance. The military performed more than 350 flights to transport medical personnel and more than 1,000 tons of equipment; helped build approx. 100 field hospitals with over 25,000 beds, and provided support to civilian efforts. Moreover, NATO allies and individual partners coordinated aid deliveries to other partners such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Georgia, Iraq, the Republic of Moldova, Mongolia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Along with H.E. Mr. Oleg Serebrian, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to Germany; H.E. Mr. Daniel Ioniță, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to the Republic of Moldova; Alla Roșca, Doctor habilitat, Associate Researcher at Edgewater Research LLC, co-founder of CID NATO; Victor Guzun, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to Estonia, manager, Guzun Consulting, professor at the Technological University of Tallinn, we discussed:
a) The experience of states in crisis management and ensuring human security;
b) Lessons learned: solutions for improvement and actions to be avoided in a crisis situation;
c) Post-crisis measures taken by governments.
H.E. Mr Oleg Serebrian said that Germany’s experience in the fight against COVID-19 had been taken over by several European countries, as the medical system worked very well and coped in the critical months. Moreover, Germany has provided assistance to other states by facilitating the transport of patients or providing hospital beds for patients from other countries. The actions of the authorities were prudent, good from an economic and social standpoint, and effective enough to stop the spread. Beyond good practice, the actions of the federal and state administrations have played a key role, as has that of citizens, who abide by the rules. Civic conscience played a very big role. Nonetheless, the economic effects are still dramatic. The most affected areas are the hotel sector, the automotive industry, small and medium enterprises, and food industry. Large companies have significantly reduced staff. The government helps with investments and other measures. The areas that have seen growth are the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries.
H.E. Mr Daniel Ioniță emphasized the importance and role of partnerships, cooperation and solidarity, as the pandemic is an unprecedented challenge in the Euro-Atlantic area. Among all the ideas discussed, four basic lessons learned were emphasized:
a) The importance of solidarity of partnerships and cooperation has been demonstrated. EU states have managed to identify solutions, draw conclusions, and draw a safety net that will find them ready for the second wave;
b) Solidarity is needed and it will be successful if all actors (civil society, media, governments, etc.) unite their efforts;
c) The social contract must work. Citizens’ trust in the authorities is essential. The latter must communicate the same messages. It is forbidden to break and split messages. The inefficient social contract affected the increase of the number of diseases in Moldova;
d) Effective cooperation is needed. Partnerships become a key element, which will facilitate the provision of aid, the identification of treatment, the widespread administration of the vaccine.
There is also a need for a constant assessment of the situation in order for states to be better prepared to act in the future. Europe must stay united, and its mechanisms must be strengthened. A better crisis response system and a robust medical system need to be developed.
At the WHO level, Romania strongly supports a multilateral response. The launch of the accelerator to develop the tools to combat COVID-19 by the WHO is an example of the joint effort that is still needed.
At EU level, the crisis has deeply tested both the responsiveness of institutions and society. Although the response capacity of the EU institutions was slower at first, the response has become broader with the use of all instruments provided by all European policies.
At NATO level – the organization has played an important role since the beginning of the crisis by supporting civilian efforts to combat the effects of the pandemic, thus demonstrating the unity and solidarity of the Alliance.
Alla Roșca presented the US experience. The analysis of the involvement of the American States in the response to COVID-19 shows that the states with the following three factors acted effectively:
1. state capacity;
2. social trust;
3. the ability of the leader.
If we refer to the capacity of the state, we should mention that the USA is a global power, with enormous economic, financial and social capabilities. The US Congress has allocated around $3 trillion to support businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic. It is the largest stimulus package since the 2008 crisis.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government left the responsibilities to the state-level governments. The United States is a federation, and the federal system assumes that the federal and state-level governments have different functions. It offers flexibility and the ability to adapt responses in the context of the crisis.
Regarding social trust, the level of trust in local governments is much higher – in 2018 about 72% trusted local governments. Thus, there are examples of the states of New York, California and Ohio, which have mobilized large resources at the local level to manage the pandemic response. The United States has also allocated more than $10 billion in external assistance, including to Central and Eastern European countries.
Victor Guzun emphasized the strong points that helped Estonia overcome the challenges of the pandemic more easily:
a) the messages from the authorities were very clear;
b) the education system was already prepared and this change was much easier to deal with comparing to other states;
c) although the medical system was not prepared for such a situation, the digital system addressed the existing gaps;
d) there was a great information campaign for the citizens. The media and the police were working very well in this respect;
e) they compensated the salaries of the companies that had losses;
f) loans were offered to companies;
g) credited holidays have been offered;
h) investments were facilitated to support the economy;
i) commissions have been set up with neighboring states to coordinate actions;
j) an exemplary organization of citizens took place, who complied with the rules.
Estonia is developing an emergency response system in partnership with Finland – together they are building a repository for a possible similar crisis and operating protocols are being created.
During the Q&A session, the participants were interested in the restrictions that could be imposed in the future for the citizens of Moldova, in case the situation in the country will not improve; how good governance deals with this situation; what is the experience of states in terms of distance education; and what positive practices can be presented for the involvement of women in security and defense institutions in the fight against the pandemic?
Speakers stated that this pandemic is a test of the professionalism of the rulers, and in some cases populism has gained very high accents in some states. It is also a test of good governance, and in the medium and long term, all populist leaders will pay the price for the measures they have taken. Unfortunately, until then, the population will suffer from incompetence. The pandemic also highlighted the fight against infodemia, which increased during this period. COVID-19 is, in a way, also a test for the EU, a union based on democratic principles, and it is important for citizens to participate voluntarily in government measures to deal with the pandemic.
The speakers mentioned that the situation in Moldova will not improve soon. Citizens will continue to be subject to restrictions on travel to the European Union and will not have those freedoms they enjoyed until the pandemic. Likewise, the participants in the round table referred to the fact that this is an electoral year for Moldova and this raises certain questions if the society, the responsible structures and the government are ready to start the autumn elections.
Taking into account the analysis of experts on the experience of different states in crisis management and ensuring human security, the following recommendations can be made for Moldova:
– Moldova needs continuous monitoring and analysis of the crisis situation. The communication between the Government and the LPA needs to be revised, as the pandemic has highlighted the issue of providing financial, technical, medical inventory and human resources.
– The field of education must be reviewed and reorganized, the possibility of organizing the online education must be ensured.
– The government, as well as the LPA, must take measures to provide truthful and coordinated information on the processes undertaken to counter the pandemic. Citizens must be made aware of the protection measures, the places intended for testing and the medical institutions where they can address in the event of illness.
– Non-governmental organizations need to be more actively involved in pandemic control activities at local and national level.
– NGOs and government institutions must inform the public about the methods of dissemination and protection against COVID-19 and contribute to counteracting misinformation and conspiracy theories about this health crisis.
The Information and Documentation Centre on NATO is a noncommercial, autonomous organization set up as a part of the 2006-2009 Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) Republic of Moldova-NATO. The Center promotes the Euro-Atlantic values and principles, informs the society about the multiple aspects of security, and supports the governmental institutions in security and defense sector reform.