How Should Governments Manage Budget Cuts of 20% (or more) in 2021?

written by Matt Andrews

50 participants in 36 countries completed our informal survey

The months of October, November and December are commonly busy in City Treasuries, Provincial Budget Bureaus and Ministries of Finance across the world. This is the time of year when these officials are finalizing their budget proposals and are getting ready to present the proposals to political representatives. 

More often than not, one expects to see revenue and expenditure plans for next year that resemble the year before—with some incremental changes to reflect inflation and other expected and programmable influences on revenue availability or policy need.

Budgeting for 2021 will look very different, creating an immense challenge for budget officials. In a recent informal survey, we at the Building State Capability Program asked such officials about this challenge. 

The questions in the survey asked what respondents expected with respect to revenue and expenditure estimates next year. A good number responded ‘I  don’t know’, explaining that there were still too many questions to answer, like: 

  • ‘will we find a COVID-19 vaccine?’
  • ‘if so, how much will the vaccine cost?’
  • ‘will we be able to increase fiscal space?’
  • ‘will international organizations provide more funds?’
  • ‘can we renegotiate our debt?
  • ‘will the economy grow?’
  • ‘will tourism (and revenue from tourism) rebound?’
  • ‘can we unwind government supports to firms, the unemployed and other citizens?’

These questions are incredibly difficult to answer, and in many cases, unanswerable for 2021 (and perhaps even beyond). This makes it incredibly difficult to estimate revenues and expenditures moving ahead. But budget plans must be written, negotiated, and finalized. How should this be done?

For respondents who described their revenue and expenditure estimates, regardless of these unknowns, the numbers were sobering. As shown in the bar graphs below, estimates in different contexts covered quite a range – but all were negative (such that everyone expects decreases in revenue and expenditure next year).  

The majority of estimates from our (admittedly unscientific) survey suggest that revenue shortfalls and expenditure cuts will be well above 20%. This means that governments expect to raise 20% (or more) less revenue next  year than they did in 2020 (which was already a tough year). And governments expect to decrease expenditures by 20% (or more) in 2021. How should this  be done?

Continue reading How Should Governments Manage Budget Cuts of 20% (or more) in 2021?

Will Government Budgets in 2021 involve more COVID-19 ‘Whack-A-Mole’?

written by Matt Andrews

Governments started 2020, as they do every year, with budgets that set out plans for raising and spending public money. Then COVID-19 hit, disrupting even the best laid plans and forcing officials to shift from planning to triage mode in the face of rapidly changing crisis conditions. 

According  to a recent informal survey we conducted, with 48 respondents from across the world, the COVID-19 effect is generally widespread and significant:

  • Over 75%  of respondents noted that their governments faced growing spending needs, which required revisions on the spending side of most budgets.
  • Over 90% of respondents noted that their governments faced declining revenues, which necessitated urgent efforts to access funds and fill gaps.
  • Over 90% of  respondents noted that public sector deficits grew in the year, which called for changes in fiscal policies, norms and even rules in many  places.

These pressures turned 2020 into a series of constant budgetary  revision and re-negotiation in most governments. Some officials I was in contact with, described the  experience as frustrating and exhausting; they were never able to keep up with all the problems that emerged.

In a sense, managing public  finances in 2020 was like a long game of ‘whack-a-mole’.

Now, in late 2020, governments need to think about how they budget for 2021 (and beyond) hoping that they can plan more effectively given what they now know about the impacts of COVID-19. 

Stated differently, can they budget in a way that fosters less COVID-19 ‘whack-a-mole’ in 2021?

We at the Building State Capability program are intent on helping in this process, by offering ideas about how governments can foster more stability in 2021 – both by preparing their 2021 budget plans differently and by developing strategies to engage with emerging pressures to those plans throughout 2021. We will offer a few blogs on this in the coming weeks – as many governments are in the final throes of preparing their 2021 plans – and will hold a one week executive education program on budgeting  through crisis from October 26th to 30th, 2020.

We have some amazing faculty members contributing to the executive program:

  • My colleague  Ricardo Hausmann will address – among other things – ways of thinking about the macro-fiscal uncertainties associated with COVID-19 and the difficult trade-offs governments are being forced to consider at this time (read some of his views in  this blog)
  • Teresa Curristine, the Deputy Division Chief in the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, will lead a session on the difficulties of budgeting in a time of COVID-19 (see a blog on the topic she recently co-authored here).
  • Louise Sheiner, Policy Director of The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, will address challenges in the United States context and speak to the tensions involved in programming different  kinds of social expenditures at this time (see a recent related blog here).
  • Sandra Naranjo Bautista, former Secretary of Planning and Interim Vice President in Ecuador, will  share her personal experience leading the public  finance response to Ecuador’s 2016  earthquake, including  discussing the  challenges associated with leadership at this time (something she references in two recent blogs, here and here).
  • Paolo de Renzio, Senior Research Fellow for the Open Budget Initiative at the International Budget Partnership, will reflect on the importance of communications, transparency and partnerships in developing and managing public budgets at this time (a topic he discussed in this blog).

If you, or anyone you know might be interested in participating in this program, please share this link with them. We would love to have you join us.

If  you can’t join the program, watch for more blog posts on the topic!

COVID-19 is Poised to Exacerbate the Learning Crisis, Evidence from Long-term School Closures in Pakistan

written by Marla Spivack

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the policies adopted to mitigate its spread will be drastic everywhere and particularly grim in low- and middle-income countries.1 As economies shrink, up to a decade of progress in poverty reduction could be undone. As health systems struggle, millions could go without treatment for preventable infectious diseases and childhood vaccination rates could plummet. And as schools are shuttered, millions of children will fall further behind in school with devastating effects on their outcomes later in life.

A leaky roof is a small problem on a sunny day and a big, urgent problem on a rainy one. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a rainy day for education systems in low- and middle-income countries, it is a one-hundred-year flood. A new paper from the RISE Pakistan Country Research Team (CRT) shows that children in these countries are especially vulnerable since they are embedded in already dysfunctional education systems. The paper also shows that some of the worst damage to children’s long term learning from these closures may come after schools start up again. If children have fallen behind, they may never catch up even after they return to school.

New study of the learning effects of the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake has important lessons for COVID-19 related school closures

In the paper, RISE Pakistan Team members (Tahir Andrabi of LUMS and Pomona College, and Jishnu Das and Benjamin Daniels of Georgetown University) use a survey conducted four years after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake to measure how the disaster affected children’s learning and other human capital outcomes.

The 2005 earthquake was severe, with an epicenter in the Himalayan region, it registered 7.6 on the Richter scale, caused more than 80,000 deaths, and destroyed the vast majority of infrastructure in the area. As a result, children were out of school in the affected areas for an average of 14 weeks.

The researchers studied the effect of the school closures on children’s learning, and the findings have important implications for how we can expect the COVID-19 related closures to affect learning outcomes for children in education systems with similar constraints to Pakistan’s—and what can be done to mitigate these effects.

If countries reopen to business as usual, short-term school closures can produce outsized, long-run learning loss

The results of the paper add further evidence to the established finding that interruptions to human capital accumulation due to disasters can be severe. In this case, they show that the disaster can leave long-lasting scars on children, even when government interventions compensate households for the shock and facilitate a speedy economic recovery.

Four years after the earthquake, school enrolments had fully rebounded, infrastructure had been rebuilt, household incomes had rebounded, and adult’s health outcomes had returned to pre-quake levels, but children were still suffering the effects of school closures. Test scores of children in the affected areas put them 1.5 to 2 years behind their peers in unaffected. This lost learning could result in children earning 15% less in every year of their adult lives. 

Losses to human capital may well continue to accumulate further after children return to school, if they fall behind and are not able to catch up with the curriculum. Children fall behind, the over-ambitious curriculum races ahead, and children can’t catch up. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Andrabi et al find that school closures accounted for only 10% of the gap in test scores. Much more was lost after children returned to school. This is likely because children fell behind the standard curriculum during the closure period and then failed to catch up. This reinforces findings from RISE work in India which shows that when children fall behind in school they struggle to catch up later, due in part to overambitious curricula.

If steps are not taken to prevent children from falling farther behind when they return to school, the crisis will likely further exacerbate inequalities

Many commentators have noted that COVID is likely to exacerbate inequalities. The findings from the aftermath of the earthquake suggest that long term school closures can reduce inter-generational educational mobility. Andrabi et al found that in the aftermath of the earthquake children with educated mothers were fully able to fully catch up with their peers from unaffected areas. This finding is troubling considering pre-COVID work from the RISE Ethiopia CRT, which shows that first generation learners are already among the most disadvantaged in terms of learning outcomes.

Pedagogical approaches that focus on teaching children where they are will be critical to averting permanent learning deficits

The compounding of learning loss that was seen in the years following the earthquake in Pakistan suggests that assessing children when they return to school and teaching them from where they are will be vital to mitigating the long-term effect of school closures. The effectiveness of approaches like these often called teaching at the right level, have been well established. When they reopen, school systems should leverage approaches like these, and focus on helping children catch up and solidify their basic skills.

Reopening to business as usual would compound the disastrous effects of the COVID related closures. This catastrophe can be avoided if education systems embrace the opportunity to take on systemic changes, as part of their response to the crisis.

Footnotes

1 Incidentally, the May 23 edition also includes a laudatory and well deserved profile of RISE Nigeria CRT PI Leonard Watchekon and RISE implementing partner African School of Economics, which Watchekon founded.

This blog first appeared on the RISE blog.

New Online Program: Budgeting in a Time of Crisis

Governments across the world are facing a major budgeting crisis in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis raises important questions:

  • How do governments manage revenue shortfalls?
  • How do you address new expenditure demands?
  • How do you forecast in the presence of multiple uncertainties?

All of these questions, and more, need to be addressed in the few months governments have left to develop their 2021 budgets. However, many of the processes and approaches to budgeting do not hold in this current circumstance. This means that new techniques and methods for budgeting in times of crisis are necessary.

Budgeting in a Time of Crisis, a new executive Education program at Harvard Kennedy School taught by Matt Andrews and Ricardo Hausmann, garners lessons from past crises, as well as cutting-edge thinking about the COVID-19 situation, to offer budgeting professionals new ideas and perspectives to apply in developing 2021 budget proposals.

These ideas relate to technical and political processes of delivering a budget (how do you forecast and build a budget technically in this trying time AND how do you communicate and engage with others about this budget) and also to the challenge of implementing that budget in coming years (what kind of flexibility might you need, what information do you need to collect, how can you manage expectations). To learn more, visit the course page.

Listen to Faculty Chair, Matt Andrews discuss the online program.

Charting a new course: Education systems after COVID-19

Written by Dzingai Mutumbuka and Marla Spivack

An ordinary classroom in an African school.

We know that time away from school due to COVID-19 has undermined learning. Children are depending on education leaders – from high level officials to classroom teachers – to start planning now for a new focus on foundational skills. With bold action, and clear focus education systems can mitigate the long term effects of this crisis and set out on a new course towards sustainable improvement in learning. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and our education systems. Education has been adversely impacted in two significant ways: schools have been closed, in some cases for a whole year; and economic production, the major source of education funding through budgets, has declined precipitously.  In Africa, where there was already a learning crisis characterized by millions of children out of school and for those enrolled completing primary education without minimum competency in literacy – 86% of children reach the end of primary school without basic literacy according to the World Bank – and numeracy, COVID-19 school closures have turned the crisis into a nightmare.

Insights from research on education systems suggest that by making a system-wide commitment to prioritizing foundational skills, assessing children’s learning levels when schools reopen, and adapting instruction to children’s learning levels, education systems can mitigate learning loss and even come back stronger than before.

Several features of the learning crisis set the stage for COVID-19 school closures to severely impact long-term learning outcomes. Learning profiles in African countries are flat, meaning that children acquire little new learning with each additional year in school. Many fail to master foundational skills early on and then struggle to keep up or catch up as the curriculum progresses. For children who learn little during school closures, catching up will be even more challenging. Learning levels in classrooms can vary widely and are likely to likely to increase in the aftermath of COVID-19 closures

COVID-19 closures are also poised to exacerbate learning inequality. The majority of children in African countries do not have access to virtual learning, but those that do are likely to be urban and better off. Better off children are also more likely to have parents who can support and supplement remote learning from the school system.  

Continue reading Charting a new course: Education systems after COVID-19

IPP Program Journey: Congo Calling Rebooted

Guest blog written by Bandi Mbubi

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

With President Felix Tshisekedi at the School of Oriental and African Studies – University of London – December 2017

At the beginning of 2019, Harvard Kennedy School invited me to apply for its executive program in Implementing Public Policy. The letter was timely as it arrived when I was reflecting on my life and considering my next moves. The more I read about the course, the more I was convinced that it was meant for me. It promised to teach effective techniques of policy analysis and implementation, with a particular emphasis on policy solutions to wicked problems, which greatly appealed to me. I faced a dilemma though: which of the two projects, I am involved in, should I focus on, as part of my learning experience? From the outset, I was required to choose one policy challenge to work on for the whole duration of the course. 

Initially, I intended to work on policy solutions which would help reduce the rapidly increasing homelessness in the United Kingdom. This fitted well with my role as Director of the Manna Society, which runs a day centre for homeless people, in London Bridge, catering for 150 people, seven days a week, with approximately 1200 people, per year, receiving welfare and housing advice.

But then I changed my mind and chose to focus on another policy problem: conflict-minerals fueling armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my home country. Although the DRC has enormous natural resources, with 1,100 minerals and precious metals and over 80 million hectares of arable land, it ranks among the poorest in the world at 176 out of 187 countries. And since 1996, a series of armed conflicts have resulted in over 6 million people dead and 4.5 million internally displaced.

In eastern DRC, where armed conflicts are prevalent, rebel groups and rogue elements of the national army use the illicit trade in minerals for personal gain and to finance their armed activities. These minerals are usually extracted artisanally and are referred to as conflict-minerals because of their use by armed groups. They consist of Tungsten, Coltan (from which Tantalum is extracted), Tin and Gold and are all important to the manufacturing of modern-day electronics.

‘Conflict-minerals’ was not a new policy challenge to me, at all, as I have worked on it since I launched Congo Calling, a UK-based NGO, in 2012 at TEDxExeter Congo Calling has three aims: (1) to stop mineral wealth from fuelling conflict, (2) to encourage responsible and environmentally sustainable exploitation of Congo’s natural resources, and (3) to use Congo’s vast natural resources to promote economic development for Congo’s people. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to work with fifteen universities across the UK to advocate that they adopt conflict-free technologies.  And five of these universities credit Congo Calling as the reason why they changed the way they procure their technology.  In addition, Congo Calling persuaded the City of Hull in the UK to change the way that they buy their technology. In 2016, the BBC interviewed me and named me as one of its Top 50 Outlook Inspirations.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Congo Calling Rebooted

IPP Program Journey: Finding Leadership Confidence

Guest blog written by Crystal Nowlan

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

When I was first invited by my municipality’s Mayor and CAO to register for the ‘Implementing Public Policy’ (IPP) course, I was incredibly honoured for the learning opportunity.  I also felt the responsibility to ensure the learning would have a return on investment for our organization and taxpayers. But my next though was, how would this course assist me? I am an accountant by trade, and I am not trained in policy like most of my course peers. I only switched from private industry to the public sector a short seven years ago. Since 2016 I have been leading a product management team in our municipality’s transformation into asset management practices: The practice of managing assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating them while delivering the desired service levels.

The asset management program (EAM) team had completed implementing five technology applications and rolled out the overall EAM business system with significant changes which require new competencies and frankly, a new culture overall.  A corporate Asset Management Policy remains to be approved by senior leadership, the Chief Administrative Officer, and Regional Council to reinforce and provide the agreement between these parties on how infrastructure-related decisions will be made consistently and aligned to agreed-upon strategies.  The policy will then provide the authority to activate the remaining roadmap plans over the next ten-plus years.

My hope was that the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course would provide me with insight and new skills on how to navigate the political forum and how to be held in esteem with senior leaders to advance my initiative among the over one hundred other corporate priorities currently in-flight.

When I arrived in Cambridge, I knew the planets had aligned to bring me this opportunity when I saw the front cover of the notebook we were given. It couldn’t be any closer to the leader’s stake (how am I motivated as a leader?) I had formulated in an in-depth peer leadership course I just finished in 2018.

Screen Shot 2020-08-16 at 10.18.41 PM

What an overwhelming amount of learning came from that week on campus!  I have never in my life been so captivated without getting distracted or weary from listening to a speaker. I was surprised to see a few key PDIA elements similar to training I have received from other courses in my career. In particular, the cause and effect, or fishbone diagram approach to brainstorming true root causes of an issue, which I had learned almost 20 years ago in my Six Sigma Green Belt training.

With a primarily private sector career background, I finally learned from Matt Andrews the true nuances of why one couldn’t expect to apply the same approaches in the public sector with the same results. I have struggled with this concept since 2012 when I joined municipal government and thought that the elected officials’ aspect was the main difference in governance. Thanks to Matt’s teaching I now recognize that I have been wrong to criticize some previous methodologies or perceived inactivity throughout the organization. Both empathy and humility are key in government leadership, as Matt taught us; I must remember the humility. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Finding Leadership Confidence

IPP Program Journey: Early Childhood Education in Brazil

Guest blog written by Beatriz Abuchaim

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 5.04.58 PM

A big headache. It was what I felt in the introductory class at Kennedy School. It was not my first experience at Harvard. I had taken a course in 2018 at Center on the Developing Child, but it didn’t have the same pressure I was feeling as a Public Policy Implementation student. My company was paying for me to be there and Harvard gave me a partial scholarship. While I was listening to Matt introduce the course to us, my painful head did not stop with mixed thoughts: “I should give my best to show I deserve all this investment. I feel so special to represent my country in such a selected group of people. I am worried if I will be able to implement my project”.

When I am overwhelmed with so many feelings my body complains with a migraine. Then I have to stop. It is a way to tell myself: take it easy. Breathe. Calm down. After the first night in pain in Cambridge, I could slow things down. During the week, I felt motivated by the professors and engaged with colleagues. Always feeling exhausted with so many assignments and tasks, but fulfilled. I came back home feeling empowered and secure. And missing my PDIA folks already.

My problem in a few words

Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Brazil currently covers 34% of 0 to 3-year-old population and 93% of 4 to 6-year-old population. These percentages represent eight million children enrolled in ECE.  The public sector is responsible for 70% of enrollments. In the past 10 years,  we have had a significant increase in the number of enrollments, but with budget limitations, so the quality of services may vary quite substantially nationwide. The municipalities, which are responsible for implementing  ECE, are struggling to improve service quality.

Although Early Childhood Education in Brazil has many problems regarding the quality of services, we still do not have a national assessment that could provide data about children’s development and learning environment. Without data, policy managers struggle to plan, improve and make decisions about ECE.

My problem is “lack of systematized information about ECE quality”. Working with PDIA and presenting my fishbone to as many people as I possibly could ended up with 12 causes and 16 subcauses for the problem.

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 5.10.28 PM

Here I will present three that were my entry points during this year, in other words, the causes I selected to try to address first:

  1.  The education area has criticisms and resistances about ECE assessment, mainly because the teachers are afraid that the results are used in a negative way: to punish them or stigmatize the children with low results.
  2. Municipal ECE managers are not used to working with data. They do not have access to systematized data, so they did not develop the skills to analyze results and use those to inform policies.
  3. There are no instruments adapted for the Brazilian context. Until now the assessments implemented in the country used translated instruments, which were not totally suitable for ECE in Brazil.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Early Childhood Education in Brazil

COVID Act Two: Look beyond your borders to navigate what comes next

Guest blog written by Peter Harrington and Ben French

Act One of Covid is over. In places it has been frightening, in others orderly, and everywhere completely unprecedented. As we move into Act Two of this astonishing global drama, and a global recession on a scale not seen before, governments and leaders need to prepare themselves for what comes next and the big questions that will define whether countries sink or swim.

A defining feature of Act One was the seeming uniformity of the pandemic. It felt like the whole world was brought together by a shared experience – fighting a merciless enemy that swept the world and respected no language or national boundary. This feeling was also often matched by a striking uniformity of response – regardless of context, governments in almost every country pulled the lockdown lever to suffocate and slow the virus.

With the curtain coming down on Act One, we find ourselves wondering: was this uniformity of experience real or imagined? It may have been a mirage. Looking closely Act One has been a vastly different experience across countries. Whereas Europe and the US have seen massive caseloads, the predicted tsunami in Africa has yet failed to materialize, even after acknowledging the lack of data. In other places like Pakistan or Indonesia the crisis looks set to smoulder, with periodic flare ups. This divergence belies the impression of uniformity – an impression that may have had more to do with where headlines are generated than any true homogeneity of experience. The reality of Covid has been extremely heterogenous.

This brings us to Act Two. So far, the policy debate has focused on how to manage the pandemic and economic shocks. The result has been a narrow focus on managing the pandemic and its economic consequences in the present, and within countries’ own borders. As governments move into the recovery phase and start thinking about the subsequent waves, a more nuanced view of the evolving situation must take hold.

In the early stages of this crisis, it was the hyper-connected parts of the world that were impacted most. The more connected a country and its economy were to the rest of the world, the higher and faster the caseload. This is common sense – places with a huge through-traffic of travellers and visitors (like London, New York, Hong Kong), and more infrastructure, had far greater probability of transmission than Lilongwe or Lapland. In Act One, interconnectedness was a risk factor – it created vulnerability as travellers, tourists and flights became disease carriers. And to compound things, interconnected economies have suffered more initially – from loss of exports, loss of remittances, loss of investment. Meanwhile, those places with less inter-connection were sheltered from the storm, or at least suffered a slower spread. Continue reading COVID Act Two: Look beyond your borders to navigate what comes next

Flexibility and Learning in Times of Global Uncertainty

Guest blog written by Nahuel Arenas-García

Nahuel and his team from Costa Rica successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2017.

angello-pro-na_qlpbdjHg-unsplash

Between January and May 2017, authorities and technical staff of the Costa Rican National Risk Prevention and Emergency Management Commission (CNE, for its acronym in Spanish) joined staff of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for the Americas & the Caribbean, to analyze gaps in disaster loss and damages data-collection system using the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach under Harvard University’s Building State Capability (BSC) program. The goal was to analyze challenges in the national data-collection system as a basis for the design of a capacity-building strategy for the implementation and monitoring of the National Disaster Risk Management Strategy, developed in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global blueprint for addressing disaster risk. Counting with reliable information about the impact of disasters is fundamental to understand risk, and understanding risk is a pre-requisite to address it effectively.

Among the many challenges involved in the development of disaster loss and damages databases are the criteria for data-collection, the quality of the data collected, the capacity of data collectors and the definition of roles and responsibilities for those involved in the process, including defining the institution that will consolidate and report the information. The PDIA methodology enabled the identification of crucial bottlenecks in these different dimensions and stages of the process and enabled the formalization of a multi-sectorial data collection system. As it was revealed in the exercise, an effective and accurate disaster loss and damages data collection system needs to result from a multi-sectorial effort at all levels, in this case led by the disaster management authorities. The capacity of one institution of government to lead such a multi-sectorial effort faces multiple institutional challenges, even when the normative framework in place assigns that institution the necessary mandate.

The nature of risk in the world has changed and is increasingly systemic, with complex interactions between the human, political and economic systems (e.g. international finance system, urbanization, global supply chains) and the natural systems.[1] Thus, to avoid fragmented responses to systemic problems, reducing disaster risk can only be achieved through a multi-sectorial, multi-actor effort. In this vein, Costa Rica’s institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic has become an example of the role that disaster management authorities can play to bring different stakeholders together in the face of risk.

The multi-sectorial data collection system, alongside a solid normative framework, were steps in the right direction for Costa Rica. The collaboration between UNDRR and CNE to build data-collection capabilities has evolved since the application of the PDIA. The leadership of the CNE coordinating the response to COVID-19 has enabled and strengthened the multi-sectorial approach to disaster risk (of natural, anthropogenic or biological nature). Costa Rica will be the first country in the world to pilot the UNDRR-led Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF), an initiative to analyze the complexity and interconnectedness of risk in a determined country and bring together global expertise to synchronize data, methods, models, insights, practical tools and incentives in open collaboration. In this context of systemic risk and complexity, approaches to implement solutions to problems in small steps and learn in quick feedback loops are crucial to deal with uncertainty. As the Global Risk Assessment Report puts it, “Our flexibility must be as dynamic as the change we hope to survive”.


[1] Global Risk Assessment Report 2019, UNDRR.