Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures has released two reports on the response to COVID-19, in particular, on what is needed for a strong recovery that not only returns a sense of normality to society, but that results in a fairer, happier and more democratic 'normal'. While written for the New Zealand context, these papers are instructive for other countries as they turn to face what the future could look like.
Report 1: The Future Is Now: Implications of COVID-19 for New Zealand
Summary: Whatever the strategy is to lift the current restrictions, the global disruption caused by the pandemic is of a scale and pervasiveness that it would be naive to imagine a return to the world of 2019. Social, environmental, business and geostrategic impacts will echo for a long time and force both global and local change. We must seize this opportunity to have urgent reflection on many issues, not just to recover from the horrific disruption but to find the opportunities for a better future. Many of the issues this paper highlights are ones that we would have had to confront in coming decades anyhow, but the crisis accelerates the need for discussion; the future is indeed now.
Report 2: He Oranga Hou: Social cohesion in a post-COVID world
Summary: A resilient society is one that not only addresses the challenges created by crises, but finds opportunities to transform positively in order to thrive in a changed environment. This requires cooperation for the benefit of society as a whole. New Zealand is generally regarded as a country with a high level of social cohesion, given our considerable diversity; but underlying vulnerabilities and issues remain that are yet to be fully addressed.
As discussion turns to how New Zealand might reset as it moves forward from COVID-19, we argue that sustaining and enhancing social cohesion should be a collective priority. New Zealand’s cohesiveness has been evident in the early responses to COVID-19, but we cannot afford to be complacent. It may be challenged in the coming months, as many decisions made by the Government and by individuals and businesses could create tensions in the face of different views of the best path forward. Once social cohesion is lost, it becomes extremely difficult to restore, especially when there is both increased uncertainty and new forms of inequality.
Report 3: New Zealand’s place in the world: the implications of COVID-19
Summary: As a small, geographically isolated island nation, New Zealand is particularly vulnerable to international disruptions that affect our strategic alliances, market access, supply chains, tourist and student flows, and the availability of international labour. COVID-19 has been such a disruption – and one of unprecedented proportions in peacetime. The future progress of the pandemic and countries’ responses to its direct and indirect effects are uncertain. Charting a path ahead will rely on informed consideration of the geostrategic dimensions of the crisis, and how they will play out.
The pandemic has highlighted the need for global cooperation, not just in this crisis but because of the even greater threat of climate change. We are well placed to act as a broker to help progress meaningful action on such issues. But we must be honest about our degree of influence. Most of all, New Zealand must be bold and outward looking in a world that may turn inwards.