COVID-19 and Systemic Risk

 11:45h – 13:15h CET
 25 November 2021
 EFDRR Virtual Platform

The devastating impacts of COVID-19 around the world illustrate that the nature and scale of risk has changed. Extending beyond the health sector, the diverse effects of COVID-19 have serious socio-economic implications. COVID-19 has demonstrated the systemic nature of risk, affecting not only discrete parts of our social and economic systems, but also challenging the functioning of the entire system. The impacts have not been felt equally with vulnerable people, the ones more vulnerable to disasters have been hit hardest. The confinement measures required to reduce COVID-19 transmission have also had a major impact on those depending on the informal economy to make a living, including displaced people. This has stressed the need for a multi-sectoral and multi-hazard approach to prevention, preparedness, response and recovery planning for emergencies.  If we look at risk from a systematic perspective, we can see that it is the result of several factors, including: 

Complex dependencies between interconnected sectors;
Transboundary hazards that pose cascading effects on boundaries, geographical regions, and system domains that require multi-level governance approaches;
Non-linear developments with potential exponential growth of impacts that are shifting and unequal in their distribution, making it nearly impossible to extrapolate from past experience or data sets for forecasting;
Tipping points breached before they are known; 
Inadequate policy instruments to ensure adequate risk perception and avoid institutional inertia and short-term legislative initiatives.

This complexity challenges effective governance and raises the need to shift mechanisms from focusing on single hazards to a multi-hazards and systematic risk approach, in overall prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to emergencies.  This is especially true as the effects of climate change become more and more obvious.  The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic can provide important lessons for the governance of risk going forward in a multi hazard context, and what lessons can be drawn to reduce the impact of the climate emergency.

This plenary session will focus on how the region can draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for increased understanding of how to mitigate the effects of systemic risk.  The panelists will analyze the challenges currently being faced and contribute to thinking that could shape the COVID-19 recovery.  It will also examine the current lessons learnt, best practices and strategies identified, innovations achieved, and knowledge and experience gained in combating      the pandemic and potential systemic risks. The outcomes of the session will also contribute to rethinking how we govern systemic risks. There is a clear imperative from the current crisis to find a better way to prevent and manage pandemics and other systemic risks through an inclusive approach that engages vulnerable groups to ensure needs are addressed.




Ms. Sandra Gathmann
Writer and presenter

Keynote speaker

Mr. António Sales
Secretary of State, Ministry of Health, Portugal


Dr. Dorit Nitzan
Regional Director, WHO

Mr. Bruno Pozzi
Director, Europe Office, UNEP

Ms. Joke Schauvliege
Member, European Committee of the Regions

Prof. Philip Ward 
Head of the Global Water and Climate Risk section, Department of Water and Climate Risk - the Netherlands

Prof. Salman Zarka
COVID-19 Czar, Israel

Replay at:



Session information


Session type: Plenary session

Who can attend: Registered participants


English, Portuguese, Russian


 International sign language

 Closed captions