THE Covid-19 pandemic, a biological disaster that has created social and economic devastation, needs to be addressed through the creation of a “science diplomacy road map,” which will define and implement innovative ways to reduce cataclysmic occurrences.
There are two dimensions of science diplomacy that have to be taken into consideration in order to address effectiveness, accountability, integrity, transparency, competence and inclusiveness: a) the implementation of a science-based risk-informed governance; and b) the integration of resilient and sustainable elucidations.
For science-based risk-informed governance, it is significant to understand risk in the context of hazard, exposure and vulnerability as defined by the United Nations. Covid-19 as a hazard will never be managed properly if it is not assessed accordingly. The population (e.g., individual or household) as the exposure element, will not be addressed if they will not be accurately identified. And the poverty incidence and human development index as important vulnerability parameters will not be gauged suitably if these will not be classified and categorized impeccably. Given the following conditions, disaster risk will occur if all these elements are present. Once the disaster risk is assessed, then the application of the globally accepted framework to manage the risk has to be mainstreamed and implemented. This risk management does not only prevent the system from entering a perilous and uncertain territory, which could lead to catastrophic failures, but it will also ensure the development and growth of the entire system. This has to be communicated at all levels regardless of the state of affairs.
For the integration of resilient and sustainable elucidations, there are various approaches to how these will be applied. They are as follows:
1. Innovative approaches. These are methods in public governance focusing on innovative solutions:
a. Institutional innovation, which focuses on renewal or establishment of new institutions
b. Organizational innovation, which tackles the creation of new procedures or methodological approach in a system
c. Conceptual innovation, which concentrates on the new stratagems in governance
d. Process innovation, which focuses on the quality of services delivered
e. Open innovation, which tackles working beyond boundaries and collaborating globally.
2. Transformative leadership. This is about a form of leadership that can inspire positive changes in those who follow. It allocates responsibilities to all sectors and actors. It also considers the substantial inputs and recommendations from expert practitioners, scientists, and engineers. It also provides capacity development to all players in the system.
3. Strengthened national to local government coordination. This strategy focuses on empowering relevant officials, policy-makers, and decision-makers in solving different forms of divergence and non-conformities. It also enhances coherence across the levels of government.
4. Strong stakeholder engagement. This scheme provides a collaborative action between the government and the key stakeholders (e.g., academe, civil society, non-government organizations, communities of farmers, fishermen, indigenous people, the youth, women, PWDs, church leaders, private sector). This kind of approach will help the government to create incentive programs not only for the most vulnerable sector but also to the stakeholders who will be engaged and committed to solve societal problems.
5. Disaster preparedness and response management. Since there are existing laws, policies, action plans, and long and short-term development strategies being implemented, it is a must to “revisit” them to understand what needs to be enhanced and developed. It is also significant that there will be the establishment of resilient and sustainable infrastructures and systems.
6. Improved communications strategy. This strategy provides channels and platforms for effective communications in order to reduce the spread of fake news or misinformation.
7. International partnerships and collaborations. This strategy will help to share information, innovative solutions, technology, and good practices. It also promotes international cooperation and partnerships.
8. Integrating science, technology and innovation (STI) approaches and data-driven decision-making. This method anticipates, respond and recover from the disasters with the use of STI technologies and data analytics. It also promotes access to public services during emergencies.
In addition to the general strategies for establishing the road map to combat any type of peril, for biological disaster, there are preventive measures that need to be included as suggested by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are as follows:
Environmental management: a) safe water supply, proper maintenance of sewage pipelines; b) awareness of personal hygiene and provision for washing, cleaning, bathing, avoiding overcrowding, etc.; and c) vector control: environmental engineering work and generic integrated vector control measures.
Post-disaster epidemics prevention: a) the risk of epidemics is increased after any biological disaster; and b) integrated disease surveillance systems (IDSS) monitors the sources, modes of diseases spreading and investigates the epidemics.
Detection and containment of outbreaks. This consists of four steps as given under: a) recognizing and diagnosing by primary health care practitioners; b) communicating surveillance information to public health authorities; c) epidemiological analysis of surveillance data; and d) public health measures and delivering proper medical treatment.
Sci. Dpl. Glenn S. Banaguas is a The Outstanding Filipino (Tofil) laureate, NAST Outstanding Young Scientist of the Philippines, US-Asean Science and Technology Fellow; EU-Asia climate diplomat, Asean Science Diplomat, Royal Society-The World Academy of Sciences awardee; and Asia Leaders Awardee for Sustainability Leadership.