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Leadership Observatory: Issue 12

23 September 2020

This month’s #LeadershipObvs brings together pieces from the COVID-19 response front-line in the Pacific and leadership challenges at the national and global level. Our highlight is a recent webinar discussion between President Mary Robinson, President Ellen Sirleaf, chaired by Dr Robin Niblett at Chatham House on Global Leadership and International Cooperation.

Mary Robinson, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Dr Robin Niblett, ‘Global Leadership and International Co-operation in the Context of COVID-19 and Beyond’, Chatham House, 10 July 2020.

Webinar: The discussion draws out analysis of current threats to multilateral cooperation in the face of global challenges – namely climate change, systemic racism, recession – exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic. President Sirleaf argues the importance of country collaboration for eradicating the deep structural inequalities that exist today. Multilateral organisations such as the United Nations and World Trade Organisation should be scrutinised and held accountable for global leadership, argues Robinson, as custodians of international cooperation. As “unstoppable China” and “immovable America” pull in opposite directions, world leaders must prioritise collaboration to bring these states back from the brink of catastrophe. A complete transcript of the webinar is available here.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: The challenging global environment is an obvious threat to international cooperation – but is also an opportunity to expose misinformation, revive collaboration and agency, leading to a collective global recovery effort.

Debapriya Bhattacharya and Sarah Sabin Khan, ‘COVID-19: A game changer for the Global South and international cooperation?’, OECD Development Matters, 2 September 2020.

Blog: International cooperation during the pandemic – Cuban doctors being sent to South Africa – is evidence that COVID-19 has increased international cooperation – especially Southern-led initiatives. However, leadership of the global knowledge ecosystem remains in the hands of the North. Gatekeepers based in the North must share control of global networks to enable genuine, well designed, bottom-up, collaborations for recovery, led by Southern stakeholders. To avoid rebuilding a world which replicates inequality, policymakers in the North need to create pathways for national and regional actors in the South – allowing them to shape policy debates and global solutions.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: To rebuild a world without North and South division, policymakers in the North must create pathways to inclusion and share control of the global knowledge ecosystem.

Dan McGarry and Tess Newton Cain, ‘We can’t allow Pacific leaders to use coronavirus as a cover for authoritarianism’, The Guardian, 2 August 2020.

News item: Maintaining a state of prolonged emergency enables leaders to put themselves in positions of increasing impunity. Some countries in the Pacific have used COVID-19 to pass laws which don’t directly relate to health outcomes or even relate to the prevention of the virus – restrictions on freedom of movement, national lockdowns, searches and seizures, and freedom of expression, banning Facebook. McGarry and Cain conclude that at a time where economic recovery is vital, political leaders risk destroying lives and livelihoods and democracy too.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Long-standing state-of-emergency acts risk ruining economies and democracy across the Pacific.

Tim Lindsey and Tim Mann, ‘Indonesia’s coronavirus fatalities are the highest in Southeast Asia. So, why is Jokowi rushing to get back to business?’, The Conversation, 12 August 2020.

Blog: The Indonesian government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is under question. Limited investments in healthcare provision, reopening Bali to domestic and international tourists, and prioritising businesses and the economy in the recovery plan all suggest a government more worried about social unrest, argue Lindsey and Mann. Despite “the governments sluggish and messy response to the virus”, President Jokowi remains in a strong position after last year’s election resulted in him building strong political alliances providing a strong buffer against any backlash.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: The Government of Indonesia’s poor response to the pandemic is making it jumpy and ironically prioritising the economy and minimising social unrest over public health.

Sabine Freizer and contributions from the staff of the UN Women’s Leadership and Governance Section, ‘COVID-19 and Women’s Leadership: From an Effective Response to Building Back Better’, UN Women, July 2020.

Policy brief: Freizer argues for increased female political participation to rebalance the current figures, which show men hold 75% of the world’s parliamentary seats. The brief details global women’s representation at local government and parliament level and highlights key pathways for policymakers to strength women’s leadership and participation. Key conclusions: ensure decision-making bodies are gender-balanced; harness existing gender equality institutions and mechanisms in the pandemic response; ensure gender equality concerns are embedded in the design and implementation of national COVID-19 policy responses and budgets; recognise and remove barriers to women’s political participation; and improve access to public information for women and their organisations.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: UN Women report sets out key pathways for women leaders and to rebalance political representation.

Colin Wiltshire, James Batley, Joanne Ridolfi, and Athena Rogers, ‘Constituency Development Funds and electoral politics in Solomon Islands: part one’, Devpolicy, 7 September 2020.

Blog: The team from ANU’s Department of Pacific Affairs report the findings from their survey of 5,000 citizens in Solomon Islands before, during, and following the national elections in April 2019. Crucially it offers one of the first systematic empirical examinations of the Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) and their impact on citizens and voting. The results suggest that citizens perceive that the CDFs are used for community services as much as if not more than individual or household benefits. Other findings suggest that citizens see the clientelistic practices associated with CDFs as legitimate – if not fair – and that it’s not always the MP who steers the allocation of funds.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: New research on how citizens perceive Constituency Development Funds in the Solomon Islands reveals frustrated support.

Harry Kretchmer, ‘3 leadership lessons from the age of coronavirus’, World Economic Forum, 19 August 2020.

Blog: Kretchmer details three leadership lessons: 1) Lead with empathy and honesty, 2) Be agile, and 3) Value your people. These lessons were drawn from a recent paper providing a cross-national analysis of female versus male-led countries; a separate analysis of 25 companies undergoing an agile transformation; and observations of global leadership behaviours.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Political and business leaders must take steps to refine leadership behaviours towards empathy, honesty, and agility to support COVID-19 economic recovery.

Kanni Wignaraja, ‘Six things I have learned about leadership during COVID-19’, Dag Hammarskjöid Foundation, September 2020.

Blog: UN Assistant Secretary-General, Kanni Wignaraja, diaries six leadership lessons: being present and hopeful, updating in a continually changing environment, allowing extra time for the impact of emotional strain, reaffirming values and protecting dignity, being purpose not plan driven, and increasing decision-making speed.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Leadership on the front-line is about being hopeful but realistic about the need for change.

If you found our selection of resources useful please let us know by tweeting @DLprog #LeadershipObvs.

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