Covid-19: It’s foolishness, stupid!

March 20, 2020
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Javier Surasky

March 20, 2020

Fact # 1: The United States, 1992

General elections were coming. George Bush and Bill Clinton contended for the presidency. The first, supported by fresh memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the perception of the success of military operations in Iraq, was the best-positioned candidate. However, something was about to change.

James Carville, Clinton’s campaign manager, decided that to succeed, Democrats should focus on domestic policy issues as opposed to foreign policy. To be clear with his message, he hung up some posters on the walls of the Democratic bunker with a phrase that would end up becoming the unofficial campaign motto: ‘it’s the economy, stupid.’ Everyone knows the end of this story.

However, not everyone remembers that Carville´s message included three phrases: 1. Change vs. more of the same; 2. It’s economy, stupid; 3. Don’t forget healthcare.

Balckboard written by Carville at the Democratic headquarters. Photo: © Mark Pack

Fact # 2: New York, 1987

The World Commission on Environment and Development created four years earlier by the UN General Assembly with the mission of elaborating an ‘environmental perspective to the year 2000 and beyond’ (A/Res/38/161), chaired by Go Harlem Bruntland, a young former Prime Minister of Norway, presented the report Our Common Future.

Sustainable development is described in that text as one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Its central message is that economic growth cannot ignore its impact and negative effects on the environment, which would only lead to social collapse.

Changing the development governance structure was underlined as essential to overcome the following situation: ‘Those responsible for managing natural resources and protecting the environment are institutionally separated from those responsible for managing the economy’ (Our common future, paragraph 32). More than 40 years later, the Rio + 20 Conference and the 2030 Agenda took the first steps in that direction.

Fact # 3: Geneva, 2019

The World Health Organization convened a conference to present the last Annual Report on Global Preparedness for Health Emergencies  published by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent body for health surveillance and promotion. The event received little attention and almost no media coverage worldwide, even when some of its conclusions were alarming.

As part of the report, the Monitoring Board members highlighted seven urgent recommendations for the world to be prepare for health emergencies, each one of them accompanied by monitoring indicators:

1. Heads of government must commit and invest.
2. Countries and regional organizations must lead by example.
3. All countries must build strong systems.
4. Countries, donors, and multilateral institutions must be prepared for the worst.
5. Financing institutions must link preparedness with financial risk planning.
6. Development assistance funders must create incentives and increase funding for preparedness.
7. The United Nations must strengthen coordination mechanisms.

The Board urged political action to prepare for and mitigate the effects of global health emergencies, noting in its report:

“The world is not prepared for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic. The 1918 global influenza pandemic sickened one-third of the world population and killed as many as 50 million people -2.8% of the total population. If a similar contagion occurred today with a population four times larger and travel times anywhere in the world less than 36 hours, 50 – 80 million people could perish. In addition to tragic levels of mortality, such a pandemic could cause panic, destabilize national security, and seriously impact the global economy and trade”.

Annual Report on Global Preparedness for Health Emergencies, paragraph 15

The foreword of the report was signed by the President of the Global Readiness Monitoring Board: Go Harlem Bruntland.

Fact # 4: The world, 2020

A woman wears a protective mask while crossing the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, China, on January 27. Photo: © Getty Images

Wuhan was the origin place of a new Coronavirus, the COVID-19, which soon spread to the rest of the world. The World Health Organization officially declared that we are facing a pandemic. Europe becomes one of its nerve centers.

Countries around the world closed their borders and restricted people’s movement in an attempt to protect themselves. Christine Lagarde, former International Monetary Fund Managing Director and current President of the European Central Bank, stated that Coronavirus could cause crash on a scale similar to that of 2008.


💡Lack of attention to scientific evidence have significantly contributed to bring us to where we are today. The United Nations, so criticized by the defenders of a misunderstood pseudo-patriotism, has presented the facts sufficiently in advance. ‘Not answering’ to the evidence is a decision for which several people can be held responsible, with name and surname.

💡The reality, like a karma, has imposed itself upon the denial of facts. Bruntland and the Global Readiness Monitoring Board warned us about pandemic risk and its consequences. Long before, Bruntland and the World Commission on Environment and Development also prevented us about the consequences of putting economic growth over environmental and social demands.

💡Perhaps it is time to recall James Carville’s messages, tweaking them a bit: 1. Change vs. more of the same; 2. It’s foolishness, stupid!; 3. Don’t forget healthcare. To overcome the current crisis depends on the appropriation of these messages by all, starting by world leaders.

“In the Region of the Americas, four countries COVID-19 cases for the first time – Bermuda (2), El Salvador (1), Nicaragua (1) and Sint Maarten(1). All cases were reported to be imported and they are in stable conditions.

27 countries reported an additional 5,083 cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 13,069 COVID-19 cases in 43 countries in the region of the Americas. Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Mexico reported their first COVID-19 deaths – one (1) fatality each. The United States continues to report the highest proportion of cases (80%) and deaths (84%) in the region”. 

PAHO, March 19, 2020

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