Pragmatism amidst Pandemic

By Cherie Nursalim and Paul Polman

March 20, 2020

During a recent International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) board meeting conducted digitally and chaired by Paul Polman, World Health Organization (WHO) was invited to share updates with the board on the Coronavirus pandemic. ICC is the world’s largest business organization representative of over 45 million businesses and is the leading voice of business in global organizations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and G20.

ICC is calling on G20 Leaders to urgently align on a comprehensive approach to dealing with the COVID-19 to complement the impressive work of the WHO. They range from urgent ease of importation barriers linked to medical supplies and equipment, call for a social safety net for the informal sectors, the stimulus for SMEs, and scale-up of financial assistance to healthcare in the poorest countries. 

As the Vice-Chair of ICC, Cherie Nursalim shared the pragmatic and effective approach has undertaken to keep business and schools operating despite its early COVID-19. Many of the articles describe the action at a high level. We felt compelled to share the action on the ground recognizing that situations might differ country by country some general learnings apply.

We surmise that it is above all the ‘mindset’. A mindset of ‘mega’ vigilance against an invisible virus. It is a warfare, biological warfare.

Dr. Tedros the Director-General of WHO, rightfully pleaded for countries to ‘not fight a fire blindfolded’ and ‘break the chain of transmissions’ through extensive testing, tracing, and isolation. Study after study has confirmed its efficacy in the containment of the spread and flattening the curve so that the medical facilities are not overstretched.

China’s decisiveness to lockdown Wuhan and contain the outbreak has also been effective in the war against COVID-19, with zero new case, and it has since extended expertise, medical supplies to the world from US to Europe to ASEAN. Off course we need more than governments alone and have seen the private sector step up in many places not least to protect vulnerable people and communities.

Stories of solidarity can also be drawn from around the globe, collective neighbourhood initiatives in America, singing from the balconies in Italy and Spain, United in Diversity tri sector leaders and youths Collab4Health in Indonesia, an awareness based collective GAIA (Global Activities of Intention and Action) and World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders aligning the world around the COVID-19 Action Platform.

As business reel in a nightmare with contraction of human lives and economic activities across the globe, perhaps it is time to be humbled by the thread of ‘one connected humanity’. Perhaps it is a wake-up call to a balancing loop at play by our ‘one connected planet’.

This may be a ‘micron’ virus, though it serves as a ‘mega’ lesson for humanity.


Paul Polman

Chairman IMAGINE

Chairman International Chamber of Commerce


Cherie Nursalim

Vice Chairman Giti Group and Mission Board IMAGINE

Vice Chairman International Chambers of Commerce



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Posted on 29 April 2020.