Engaging with truthful self-reflection
As the unlocking begins, it is also time for India to engage with a truthful self-reflection.
The idea and practice of self-reflection entail the need for self-awareness. Being aware of one’s own thoughts and actions is the beginning of self-criticism, not in the negative sense that one is used to believe. Through self-reflection and self-criticism, one can overcome weaknesses and enhance the ability to strengthen oneself. When one begins to dig deeper into the state of being, it is also common for individuals to become obsessive in judging oneself. However, with a positive attitude, self-reflection can indeed take one forward to progressive growth. Perhaps, it is with this thought in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control.” He said this while announcing the initiation of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) to evaluate the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on July 9. Tedros said, “The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation.”
According to the WHO Director-General, the IPPR will be co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Prime Minister Clark went on to lead the United Nations Development Programme and President Sirleaf is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Operating independently, these individuals will choose other panel members as well as members of an independent secretariat to provide support. “Prime Minister Clark and President Sirleaf were selected through a process of broad consultation with member states and world experts. I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process.” said Tedros in his speech.
It may be mentioned that at the historic 73rd World Health Assembly in May, Member States adopted a landmark resolution that called on WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19.
The WHO Director-General has now proposed that a Special Session of the Executive Board be called in September to discuss the IPPR’s progress. In November, the panel will present an interim report at the resumption of the World Health Assembly. By January 2021, the Executive Board will hold its regular session, where the IPPR’s work will be further discussed and in May next year, at the World Health Assembly, the panel will present its substantive report. Tedros said, “Even as we fight this pandemic, we must be readying ourselves for future global outbreaks and the many other challenges of our time such as antimicrobial resistance, inequality, and the climate crisis.” He added that COVID-19 has taken so much from all nations but it is also giving all an “opportunity to break with the past and build back better.”
As IPPR begins its assigned task, one is not sure if India had on its own initiated such a move to assess its own capability in fighting the pandemic. With the extension of pandemic related lockdown, India is already feeling the brunt of economic pressure. The all too palpable economic pressure is further compounded by an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. While the Indian frontline workers are putting on brave faces, there is a bucketful of wishes that the authorities should have accomplished right in the beginning. However, a bureaucratic approach to the pandemic did not bring dividends as envisaged. There were gaps to bridge and fallouts to bear. As the unlocking begins, it is also time for India to engage with a truthful self-reflection.