Spending the holiday season during the global pandemic surely means that all plans must be adjusted, and some traditions may have to wait until next year. Still, this is a good moment to reflect on the past year and take stock of everything that happened. Let Dr. Seuss warm our hearts again: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!”
The Breaking Bread club, which brings STA and NCS students and faculty together to discuss issues of common interest, recently hosted Dr. Cecilia Nahón, the former Argentinian Ambassador to the United States. A seasoned economist with more than twenty years of experience in public policy, diplomacy, and academia, Ambassador Nahón spoke about global trends, current crises, and the role of the G20. In her assessment, while this is a once in a century crisis, there are also reasons for hope and scope for change. That is how we should welcome this holiday season and the New Year, with much hope.
The year 2020 was dominated by the global pandemic, which affected the entire world, especially the most vulnerable. For the first time in twenty years, global poverty rates are rising. Because of the pandemic, one hundred and fifty million more people will fall into poverty and ninety-three percent of the countries are in recession. For example, the economy of the Latin American region, which was the hardest hit by the pandemic, lost nine percent of its GDP and forty-four million people lost their jobs. Women were particularly affected, as seventy-seven percent are working in those sectors of the economy that were severely hit. In addition to COVID, the world faces multiple challenges such as climate change, debt, and inequality. The pandemic is exacerbating all of them.
News about the vaccines brought a wave of optimism. However, many countries in the world will face the challenge of procuring and distributing them in a manner that ensures they are accessible to all. There cannot be first and second-class citizens. Ambassador Nahón argued there is opportunity in this crisis. A new generation of leaders can now focus on rebuilding in a more inclusive and sustainable way. The attention of the G20 leaders will be on recovery and reconstruction in a new, multi-polar world. There is a need for all the countries to work together and there are encouraging signs of cooperation in the field of science and research. The international financial institutions have an important role in supporting the countries that face the biggest challenges. Multilateralism can emerge stronger out of the current crisis. The need for clear and predictable rules to protect all is evident.
We end this year in an unprecedented way. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, take time to enjoy the break and stay safe. Even now, there are so many reasons to be thankful and there are so many reasons to be optimistic. I am optimistic that 2021 will bring good news, first and foremost related to the vaccine and the end of the pandemic. And if I am to wish for something “from the store,” I stand with Dumbledore: “one can never have enough socks” - yet my family will probably, once again, “insist on giving me books.”
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