Q&A: Dr Thomas Hale, University of Oxford

Dr Thomas Hale
, Associate Professor in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, at the University of Oxford, has been working on analyzing policy responses of governments to the current pandemic. Along with his colleagues, he is a part of the team behind the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. The OxCGRT, as it is called, tracks and compares policy responses around the world. The tracker “provides a systematic cross-national, cross-temporal measure to understand how government responses have evolved over the full period of the disease’s spread. (Read the recent paper on theVariation in government responses to COVID-19.)

Dr Hale’s research has centered around examining transnational problems including in the environmental, economic and health spheres. We were keen to know from him, whether lessons from the pandemic can be applied to the climate crises, going forward. We are grateful for his insights including on the governance of global health.

Image credit: Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Q1 [GHF]: The governance of global health is being remade in the context of this pandemic, with a lot of private actors shaping the response to COVID-19. Some suggest that this amounts to the marginalization of World Health Organization. What is your reading on how global health governance will evolve as a result?

[TH]: The pandemic has put both the need for robust global health governance, and the limitations of the current system, into stark relief. This unprecedented salience could offer the possibility of building support for more robust global health systems. But this outcome will not just happen automatically, even if it may seem obvious. Building stronger, better resourced institutions requires governments and others to invest the time and energy needed to make that happen. I have been disappointed we have not seen much effort in this direction so far. Instead, the dominant themes have been conflict and competition, ranging from bidding wars over medical supplies to geopolitical riffs hampering mutually beneficial cooperation.

If that trend continues, we could, tragically, exit the pandemic with a weaker global health system, not a stronger one.

This would be disastrous outcome, and governments need to act to make sure that does not happen. The change of administration in the United States dramatically improves the prospects for a better outcome, but it is by no means automatic or guaranteed. A lot of hard work will be needed.


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