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Leadership Observatory: Issue Four

08 May 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, DLP remains committed to supporting leadership, wherever it may be, by helping the flow of knowledge and experience between practitioners, policymakers and researchers. DLP’s weekly #LeadershipObvs collects and summarises all of the leadership focussed resources that we have found most useful for understanding developmental leadership during the crisis – whether they be reports, articles, tweets, videos, podcasts, blogs or other. Covering everything from the challenges of leadership, how to navigate the current conjuncture, how to support processes of leadership, or looking to the future of leadership. Each Observatory is a five-minute read summarising and linking to some of the most helpful work on leadership that week.

Dan McGarry and Rachel Mason Nunn, ‘Suffering in Vanuatu: COVID-19, Cyclone Harold and a distracted political leadership’, Devpolicy, 5 May 2020.

There is a vacuum of leadership in Vanuatu. And it threatens to undermine efforts to develop a truly locally-run disaster response and is preventing aid from reaching the worst affected areas of the country. McGarry and Mason Nunn discuss, based on personal experience, the lack of assistance for local villages in the wake of Cyclone Harold – despite being only 5km away from aid distribution centres. McGarry questions the commitment and the capacity of the Government of Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office. Fiji has received more assistance than Vanuatu, despite being less affected by the cyclone. Vocal and visible leadership is required to engage with international actors such as the UN and donors to support a locally-run disaster response.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: National leaders need to effectively engage the international community to enable effective locally-run disaster responses.

Sam Hickey, Tim Kelsall, and David Hulme, ‘The politics of responding to COVID-19 in developing countries: PART ONE’ and ‘PART TWO’, Effective States and Inclusive Development, 21 April 2020.

Looking beyond democratic versus authoritarian leadership, ESID draws on eight years of research to inform the coronavirus response in developing countries. Notably, what matters more is the degree of state capacity and the ability of states to learn from previous outbreaks, trust that citizens have in the state, and the role of political leadership in devising, communicating and guiding the implementation of a coherent and effective response. The first blog in the series breaks down the ‘Context’, ‘Capacity’, and ‘Coalitions’ required to support the politics of inclusive development. The blog explains that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for countries to adopt – and usefully sets out a structured approach to leadership to help guide those seeking to support leadership.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Context, capacity, and coalitions are critical to understand the constraints and incentives facing leaders and how best to support the politics of inclusive development.

Tess Newton Cain, ‘How might coronavirus change Australia’s ‘Pacific Step-up’?’, The Conversation, 27 April 2020.

Newton Cain argues that the Pacific Step-up agenda has taken a back seat because of the COVID-19 outbreak as Australia has turned inwards. But that it also offers an opportunity to fundamentally change the direction of the Step-up from something that is done “to” or “for” the Pacific to something that Australia does “with” the Pacific. This blog identifies the challenges of coronavirus and the recent Cyclone Harold for Pacific island countries. Newton Cain calls for Australia and New Zealand to show leadership and assistance to Pacific island countries and include them in a Pacific ‘bubble’ to ease the economic strain.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: The pandemic provides an opportunity to reposition the Pacific Step-up and build more shared regional leadership and assistance.

Artemy Izmestiev and Stephan Klingebiel, ‘International (development) cooperation in a post-COVID-19 world: a new way of interaction or super-accelerator?’, Devpolicy, 1 May 2020.

Coronavirus has shown that the North-South cooperation model remains important, but continues to lose significance as South-South and East-North cooperation increase. Izmestiev and Klingebiel argue the biggest challenge for political leaders is to plan a ‘smart recovery’ from COVID-19 that does not replicate the unsustainable patterns of the past – requiring a more collaborative approach. Urging leaders to avoid quick-wins in favour of sustainable development, the authors state that countries may prefer bilateral cooperation and more club governance approaches rather than multilateral options.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: The uncertainty of a post-COVID-19 world puts leaders under pressure to cooperate with other nations.

Samuel Wilson, Jason Pallant, Sylvia T. Gray, and Timothy Colin Bednall, ‘How the coronavirus pandemic is (finally) resulting in leadership for the greater good’, The Conversation, 24 April 2020.

The Australian government is seen to be acting in the public interest for the first time since the Australian Leadership Index (ALI) started – because of the response to the coronavirus. The ALI is a survey-based tool to gauge public perceptions of leadership on working for the greater good. When compared with the negative perceptions of leadership during the bushfire crisis, the government is now viewed as a positive guardian of the public good – along with the public sector. The authors conclude that the pandemic may offer a silver lining for the future, as leadership for the greater good comes further into the public focus.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Leadership for the greater good occurs when leaders create value for society in a manner that is transparent, accountable and ethical.

Jonatan A Lassa and Miranda Booth, ‘Are populist leaders a liability during COVID-19?’, The Conversation, 8 April 2020.

Have populist leaders been overly optimistic, ambiguous, and ignored science during the COVID-19 pandemic? Researchers from Charles Darwin University suggest they have, claiming that Jokowi’s administration ignored warnings at the beginning of the outbreak resulting in higher COVID transmissions. Lassa and Booth call out leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil for mobilising fake news and misinformation campaigns to avoid adopting an evidence-based strategy. This blog highlights the potential for populist leaders to capitalise on the knowledge uncertainty around COVID-19 and use it to amplify discriminatory narratives on migration and border issues. Voters should resist the tendency to bolster populist parties globally.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Voters need to be aware of populist leaders’ tactics to divide a threatened public from trusting established institutions.

António Sampaio, Carmeneza Dos Santos Monteiro, Michael Leach, Sharon Bessell, Sue Ingram, and Julia Ahrens, ‘Podcast: Timor-Leste – politics, policy, and problems’, Asia & The Pacific Policy Society, 3 May 2020.

In the last two years, Timor-Leste has seen two parliamentary elections, with the most recent election ten months ago, that has changed the political landscape significantly. The panel discusses events that have led to this change, including how Timor-Leste can tackle its policy problems, and the role of the country’s youth in driving political change. As the president refuses to appoint several of the prime minister’s nominations for executive positions, the panel scrutinises actions of the government to make recommendations for future policy changes – in a country where the median age is 17.5. Key recommendations include working on policies which create jobs fast and expanding infrastructure in health and education.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Leaders need to work hard to bring people from different generations together.

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"DLP's COVID-19 Leadership Observatory: A weekly selection of leadership stories, articles, tweets, and podcasts from across the world in response to COVID-19."

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