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On July 21, 2020, Rosina Bierbaum made a presentation to the GEF’s taskforce on COVID-19. Dr. Bierbaum started off by summarizing the increased evidence suggesting the linkages between infectious disease outbreaks, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the release of viruses stored in permafrost and ice shields. She emphasized a statement from the World Economic Forum’s COVID-19 Report stating that “…the risk of neglecting climate and biodiversity protection in the face of COVID-19 would hence not only be a setback on the sustainability agenda, but create greater risk of future pandemics.”

Dr. Bierbaum drew from STAP’s work on theory of change, multi-stakeholder dialogue and upcoming work on behavioral science to highlight that good project design is critical to managing risks, including infectious diseases. Dr. Bierbaum stressed the following contributions of these design elements:

  • Theory of change: we must understand from the very beginning what the problem is and what our goals are. It allows us to tackle drivers through a causal pathway, assess progress and assumptions, and implement adaptive management as needed.
  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue: varying groups of actors must think through and come up with multiple interventions that promote behavior change, systems resilience, and buy-in to said interventions.
  • Behavioral science: durable behavior shifts that promote systemic change are at the root of changing systems for increased resilience and biodiversity protection. Behavior change leads to enduring outcomes and increased resilience. It will be different across scales and groups.

Dr. Bierbaum finalized her presentation by pointing out that resilience thinking is critical in helping the GEF manage known, and unknown, risks. Resilience can help us think about cross-scale connectivity, systems thinking and adaptive management – steps which are deeply interconnected with enduring outcomes.

  • GEF COVID Task Force Behavior Change