Thursday, 25 March 2021  – 15:00 – 16:30 (CET)

As of the end of February 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 2.4 million deaths worldwide. Beyond the dramatic loss of human life, the pandemic has triggered widespread disturbances in health, social, economic, and environmental systems and disrupted the normal functioning of governance systems. Ultimately, the pandemic reveals how deeply interconnected societies are unprepared to face a global systemic crisis.

This online event on 25 March marked the publication of a new GSPI Policy Brief entitled “Governing in the Age of Complexity: Building Resilience to COVID-19 and Future Pandemics”. Developed by a team of 30 researchers from the natural and social sciences and reviewed by policy actors, this brief promotes a holistic mindset about the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  1. applying a complexity lens to understand its origin, nature, and impact, 
  2. proposing actions to build resilient societies to pandemics, and
  3. deriving principles to govern complex systemic crises.

This high-level event convened policy practitioners, diplomats and experts to learn about how to govern future pandemics in the light of COVID-19. Panels highlighted the importance of adopting adequate mindsets, experimental strategies and the use of decision-making tools to enhance the governance of pandemics and similar crises over the world.

Participants took away practical insights and tools for decision-making when faced with complexity and uncertainty. 

Download the policy brief

Download the policy brief via this link (pdf)

Event summary on our partner SDG Lab’s website:

Click here!

Watch the full recording of the event

Event agenda

Moderation: Nadia Isler – Director, United Nations SDG Lab


  • Nicolas Seidler – Executive Director, Geneva Science-Policy Interface

Opening remarks

  • Tatiana Valovaya – Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva
  • Yves Flückiger – Rector, University of Geneva

Keynote presentation: Governing pandemics in the face of complexity

  • Dr. Didier Wernli – Senior Researcher at the Global Studies Institute, University of Geneva

Reactions: Reflection on using a resilience-approach during COVID-19

  • Mito Tsukamoto, Chief, Development and Investment, Employment Policy Department, International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Gabrielle Marceau, Associate Professor, Law Faculty, University of Geneva & Senior Counsellor, World Trade Organization (WTO)

Panel: Tools and approaches to make decisions in the face of complexity

  • Scientific task forces – Dheepa Rajan, Health Systems Adviser, World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Decision-making under deep uncertainty – Prof. Jan Kwakkel, Delft University of Technology
  • Group decision-making facilitation – Colleen Magner, Managing Director Johannesburg, Reos Partners

General discussion with the audience

Closing remarks

  • Nicolas Seidler, Executive Director,  Geneva Science-Policy Interface