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Governance and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic struck the world at a time when the relationship between governments and their citizens and the relationship between different sections of society were already under pressure. Responses to the 2008 global financial crisis had increased inequality and fueled resentment of elites, and populist leaders had emerged to channel that resentment into increasingly effective assaults on democratic institutions. The world was already off track to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, even before COVID-19 dramatically worsened the health, educational, and economic plight of billions of people across the globe.


This background paper, authored by David Steven and Margaret Williams, for the 2021 SDG16 Conference argues that governance is the linchpin both to the response to the pandemic and to achieving the SDGs. It proposes three overarching missions for governance in the coming decade: 

  1. Rebuilding the social contract between governments and citizens

  2. Improving the performance of institutions so that they can solve the problems that matter to people during and after the pandemic

  3. International collective action and strengthened global and regional governance to help increase the effectiveness of institutions at national and subnational levels.

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