COVID Scarring Amid a Polycrisis: The Acid Test of Democratic Solidarity?

Published: December 2022    |    By: Jean-François Tardif and Robert Greenhill|   Volume 70, No. 7


The pandemic has created ripple effects that have seriously affected health and education systems, as well as the economy in general, when the world was already lagging in its efforts to attain the SDGs.

These effects, that could have lasting consequences and that we call scarring, are now compounded by other crises, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine: food, fuel, fertilizer crises, as well as generalized inflation, high interest rates and disrupted supply chains. The international community, in the 3 years that have followed the onset of COVID-19, has shown creativity and commitment to address the COVID crises (front-end loading World Bank financing, setting up COVAX, making more special drawing rights available) but this has not been sufficient to bring back health systems to pre-pandemic levels or to offset learning gaps. With significant donor funding going to support Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees and higher interest rates already crippling highly indebted low-income countries (LICs), the combined effect of other crises can send many LICs down a spiral of dysfunctionality and social tensions that could lead to catastrophic unrest and disruptions.

Donor and implementing nations must make addressing COVID scarring a priority over the next two or three years, to stop slippage and address the gaps created by the pandemic. First, donor countries must commit to making aid to Ukraine additive so that it does not displace aid to low-income countries. Second, they must also adopt a surge package to address the scarring over 2/3 years. At roughly 30 dollars per person/year if spread evenly across donor nations, this package would be affordable and leave room for addressing the other crises: Ukraine-related, climate-related and the more generalized lack of momentum to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


About the Authors

Jean-François Tardif is an independent consultant on international development and an advisor on economic issues at Results Canada, a leading advocacy organization on international development. He is an active participant on the Global Leadership Collaborative To End Ultra-Poverty. Jean-François has dedicated much of his efforts to support the growth, development and empowerment of citizen advocacy groups in Africa and around the world. From 2011 to 2013, he was Executive Director of Results Canada, as well as Board Member for Canadian Council for International Cooperation. Earlier, Jean-François had had a long career in the Canadian government, holding the positions of Senior Negotiator, Director and Chief Federal Negotiator of Aboriginal Land Claims, and subsequently of Director General and Secretary General at the Public Service Commission. He holds a Graduate Degree from Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris with research in health economics, a Diplome of Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (political economy) and an M.A. from Laval University in Policy Analysis.

Robert Greenhill has combined a career in international business with a commitment to public policy. Robert Greenhill is Executive Chairman, Global Canada Initiative, and Professor of Practice at the Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University. Previous roles include Managing Director and Chief Business Officer of the World Economic Forum, Deputy Minister and President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Group of Bombardier Inc. Robert started his career with McKinsey & Company. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organisations (IGOPP), the KBF Canada Foundation and of the Advisory Board of the Banff Forum. Robert has a BA from the University of Alberta, MA from the London School of Economics, and MBA from INSEAD.