You can’t isolate yourself from a pandemic and you can’t isolate yourself from climate change. So we do have to find mechanisms.
In 2008, I worked in the international financial system, and in the standing up of the G-20 in response to the financial crisis, you had committed multilateralists sitting in key jobs in international organizations and in key jobs in government and in key governments. There’s no getting away from the fact that when you’ve got inward-looking politicians in key countries of the global economy, it makes it more difficult.
There is something we call reciprocal vulnerability, and I think women leaders are frankly, better at it. It’s basically standing up and saying, “You know what? I don’t know, we don’t know, but we are going to get through this together.”
There’s something extraordinarily powerful in that. Look at the countries that have done that versus the countries where it’s like, “We’re best at this,” or “We’re best at that,” whether or not that’s really true. In this crisis, imagine the international cooperation of walking into the room saying, “We don’t know, but we’re going to get through this together.” It’s not a bad place to start.
I can find green beans from Kenya in my local organic supermarket here in Brussels. It’s good that the growers have a global market for their goods, but how do you maintain those livelihoods and jobs at the scale — especially as different parts of the world are hit by the crisis-related downturn?
This crisis is going to force us to address some issues that we haven’t really wanted to address in the last few years, which is that you can grow your green beans in Naivasha and you can export them to the Netherlands, and I can buy them the next morning, but we still don’t have access to an affordable diet for millions and millions of Africans. We don’t have effective local and regional markets for fresh foods in Africa. We need extraordinary amounts of investment in cold storage and in supply chains within the region. And so, when a shock comes and suddenly there’s no flights to Amsterdam, everything collapses.
The same is true across Latin America. Most Latin American countries are exporting their food, and yet Latin Americans are suffering from type two diabetes, increasing amounts of noncommunicable diseases because of bad diets. And we have unparalleled rates of deforestation.