COVID-19 a tragedy that offers opportunity for a reset

COVID-19 a tragedy that offers opportunity for a reset

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Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed at the COVID-19 drive-through center in Abu Dhabi, March 28th, 2020. (WAM)

As the world begins to reopen after the devastation wreaked by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we will all watch and learn how different countries and regions cope with the new realities that will exist. I wonder how the Middle East will emerge.

This pandemic did not respect national boundaries. In order to overcome this pandemic and other inevitable catastrophes, we must cooperate. Whether you are Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian, Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati, Qatari, Omani, Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Moroccan or any other nationality, these problems affect us all and we can best find the solutions by working together. 

There is no better place to work across diverse backgrounds than in the Middle East, a region whose leadership is urging cooperation in order to build a better, safer and healthier future.

For example, King Salman of Saudi Arabia told the G20 in March that: “We must have an effective and coordinated response to this pandemic… This human crisis requires a global response. The world counts on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge.”

In the UAE, the video showing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan driving to a test center to get tested is a clear reminder that we are all in this together. As Sheikh Mohammed has pointed out: “Global cooperation and leadership must take precedence as we work together to recover from the health and economic impact caused by the coronavirus. The challenges society now faces underscore the belief that global investors… perform an even more vital role in driving positive change through investing at home and internationally for a sustainable future.”

My takeaway from these messages is that it is high time to put politics aside and work together for the benefit of all of humanity (though I recognize that I am an eternal optimist). 

We must also recognize, support and applaud the dramatic changes occurring in the region, where it is clear that its youth population holds the keys to the future. As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at the Future Investment Initiativein Riyadh at the end of last year: “I believe the new Europe is the Middle East.” This is an admirable, lofty goal and major, positive changes are afoot.

In May, even while the pandemic was at its height, startups in the Middle East and North Africa raised $51 million in new funding. In the same month, Israeli startups raised $300 million. Like researchers in the rest of the Middle East, Israeli scientists and innovators are racing to develop vaccines and therapies for COVID-19, as well as deploying technological solutions to address the issues of working, learning, and communicating while under social distancing rules. 

Let us imagine for a moment what could happen if all of these communities were working together, pooling their resources to help improve the region and the rest of the world. When I think about the goals and desires of the leaders of the region, I am excited and hopeful. I know these leaders and others in the region have within them the skill, power and ability to transform. Their populations are also energized by the possibilities and they thirst for a forward-looking future.

This terrible crisis has created an opportunity that must not be ignored. We now have a chance for a reset. We must break down the old barriers; the region should pool its resources and vast talent to create a better future for the next generation — all of them.

It is high time to put politics aside and work together for the benefit of all of humanity.

Jason D. Greenblatt

OurCrowd, the Israeli investment platform where I am now a partner, has launched a $100 million Pandemic Innovation Fund to support technological solutions to the urgent issues raised by the coronavirus. From vaccines and therapies to remote diagnostics and medical protection, and from distance working and learning to business and social continuity, the fund will provide the resources to power the innovation that will help us reset for a better future. 

On June 22, OurCrowd will host an online Pandemic Innovation Conference, bringing together the world’s leading experts and innovators to discuss the solutions we need to fix our world.

Today, I want to issue a personal invitation and a challenge. I personally invite innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and students from across and throughout the Middle East (others are welcome too of course) to join our conversation on June 22. The challenge? Let’s break down the old barriers and create our common future together. Now is the time and the opportunity is here.

  • Jason D. Greenblatt was the White House’s Middle East Envoy for nearly three years. He is now a partner at equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd. Twitter: @GreenblattJD 
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view