In times of crisis, there cannot be any vacuum in leadership. We learned from history books that when leadership positions are not filled, the enemy will strike in. Today, we face two common enemies: a poorly known and dangerous virus and misinformation. 

Looking to the current global order status from 10 years from now, we can either fall in despair and miss the opportunity to strengthen partnerships, or we can feel that this was a ‘one-shot’ moment in our history where we gave all we could for our children and grandchildren; for generations to come.

Whether it is in science, education, medicine, business, or even politics, the ‘way old way of doing things’ is changing. We no longer need compelling stories about what needs to be done. We know exactly what matters to business, we know what matters for future generations, and we know that we need better jobs, better climate, better education and better health. We know what needs to be done. Now is the moment to act.

In a seldom moment in history, member states, civil society organizations, academia and private sector come together as one to agree, back in 2015, on a comprehensive plan to achieve a healthier, happier and safer future for humanity and the world through the acomplisment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. 

Addressing the current global health landscape means taking the opportunity of the momentum generated by the severe COVID-19 crisis, and transform it into life-changing policies that can insure dignity for those in most vulnerable conditions, and also to strengthen health systems and social responses across the globe. 

Strengthening a community-based vision for health is a fundamental step towards achieving universal health coverage for all and the full extent of the health-related SDGs. Ten years ahead of the world’s most ambitious targets and in a year in which the UN System completes 75 years of existence, we must, once and for all, acknowledge that with no health, with no leadership, there is no economic, social, and environmental well-being. The time has come to redesign our financial and economic models to strive towards universal well-being, ensuring that growth actually trickles down to each and every citizen.

When we look at the biggest corporations and their response, we realise that those who have included a holistic, global and multi-stakeholder vision in their business are the ones who are responding better to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not because they are simply putting more money, but because they understood the true dimension of the challenge. 

To reaffirm its values, amidst pandemic, the World Economic Forum launched key stakeholder principles that clearly states that ‘stakeholder capitalism’ means that companies and businesses must ensure that our global economy gets through this crisis by safeguarding the health and well-being of the employees; by supporting the ecosystem of suppliers and customers, securing business continuity and keep supply chains open; by thinking about end consumers, maintaining the principle of fair prices; by working with shareholders, asking for a long-term vision of sustainability and by providing full support to the political power, in continuing to complement public action with know-how and innovation. 

That is why we must understand that without health there is no growth, no prosperity and no sustainable planet. Health in all policies reinforces that all these stakeholders will be better prepared for a future public health crisis. Looking ahead, the worst case scenario is one in which we face yet another economic slowdown, another global economic crisis where goods and services are stop being produced, amid the lack of demand, because of an unprepared health system that failed. 

At UNITE, an independent, non-profit, global network of parliamentarians from more than 60 countries, based in Lisbon, we are committed to ensuring responsible leadership to our 130 legislators across 6 diffent continents to work alongside the academia, civil society, philanthropy and, inevitably, with the private sector, towards building a sustainable future for all. 

As a response, UNITE is now working with the Centre for Responsible Leadership of Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics in bridging policymakers, global health players with C-level corporate leaders, to make sure that infectious diseases, and other global health challenges, are not and impediment to full development of economic growth and well being of all peoples.

Now, more than ever, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear that infectious diseases have a significant impact on global health. Infectious diseases have been identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a major cause of morbidity and mortality and must be addressed to improve health worldwide. UNITE plays its role as an active stakeholder through our efforts towards eliminating infectious diseases as a global health threat by 2030.

Therefore, it is time for leaders worldwide to recognize that health is an unequivicol pre-requisite for economic growth and stability, social development and justice, well being and happiness. Health is a human right. To protect that right, we need responsible leaders to scale-up their commitments they made five years ago when they signed on the 2030 Agenda. 

May the Sustainable Development Goals be our lighthouse to guide us in these troublesome times and ensure that we leave no one behind. It’s time to UNITE.

Have a great and impactful week!

Ricardo Baptista Leite MD MP
Member of Parliament, Portugal
Head of Public Health, Católica University of Portugal
Founder & President, UNITE Global Parliamentarians Network to End Infectious Diseases
Vice-President, Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund
Global Ambassador, G20 Health & Development Partnership

This article refers to edition #47 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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