Ambassador Igor Driesmans, European Union (EU) Ambassador to ASEAN, spoke on the multi-pronged EU Vaccines Strategy to support the recovery of its member states, at the final session of the RSIS Webinar Series on Post-Pandemic Recovery Across Regions on 25 February 2022. The webinar was organised by the Centre for Multilateralism Studies. This centred on ramping up vaccine manufacturing capacity, using advance purchase agreements to ensure the sufficient supply of vaccines, and expediting the vaccine development and authorisation process. To alleviate the economic crisis, the EU further introduced an economic recovery package and maintained the free cross-border movement of goods, services, and people, where possible, throughout the pandemic.
Meanwhile, pandemic recovery rates varied across different sub-regions in Latin America, according to Dr Giovanni Agostinis, Assistant Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Weaker regionalism in Latin America owing to a lack of regional leadership, intergovernmental conflict, and the disintegration of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)—a regional organisation active in public health policy—had led to slower recovery in South America. In contrast, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Central American Integration System (SICA) demonstrated a more comprehensive regional coordination. In Dr Agostinis’ view, their success in managing the pandemic could be attributed to creating links between members states and external donors, as well as drawing upon those links to gain financing, build technical capacity, implement best practices, and facilitate expert and information exchange.
Dr Kathryn Nash, Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Edinburgh, discussed the African Union (AU) and Africa Centre for Disease Control’s (CDC) Joint Continental Strategy, a set of pandemic management guidelines covering public health support and socioeconomic recovery. Similar to Latin America, the CDC worked with external donors such as the World Health Organisation and the private sector to improve medical training and deliver critical supplies. These efforts were complemented by the AU’s political advocacy in international forums to highlight vaccine equality and pandemic-related socioeconomic issues, such as protectionism in medical goods and debt relief. COVID-19 thus provided regional organisations, such as the AU, the opportunity to enhance their technical capacity in public health policy advance their wider diplomatic agenda and enhance their global stature.
On best practices in pandemic management across regions, panellists pointed to the need for regional organisations to support member states, because countries would want the control of their national responses to the pandemic. To that end, regional organisations should provide, for instance, medical guidance and informational materials for public health campaigns. Regions could also work on pooling informational resources to combat disinformation, endorse member countries’ COVID-19 certificates and implement travel corridors. In the long term, regions should work towards building up medical procurement and vaccine manufacturing capacities.