The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development just released their first evaluation report on COVID-19 responses in several countries.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected different countries with varying degrees of intensity, managing the crisis has presented most governments with an unprecedented challenge. This OECD paper draws lessons from the assessments that governments themselves have conducted on their COVID -19 responses.
It summarises the findings from 67 such evaluations conducted in OECD countries during the first 15 months of the pandemic. These initial evaluations show that many governments have reached similar conclusions and allow us to draw important lessons that can inform ongoing policy responses to the crisis and enhance future resilience.
We're very pleased that the importance of good risk and crisis communication is clearly mentioned as one of the key messages.
Trust is the cornerstone of any communication activity during an emergency or long-term crisis such as the current pandemic and this is also recognised in this report.
"Trust requires transparency, not only through frequent and targeted crisis communication,but,more importantly,by engaging stakeholders and the public in risk-related decision-making."
It's strange, however, to find "internal communication" as a key finding in this report. Many of us who specialise in risk and crisis communication know that internal communication and coordination always come first - above all else.
It seems that many governments are either discovering this well known truth or are finding it a real challenge to create good internal channels.
"To be effective, crisis management needs to rely on predefined internal communication and reporting channels, which can prove challenging between levels of government."
The framework for assessing COVID -19 responses in this report places "crisis communication" only under the crisis management part of the emergency cycle.
Again, as professionals, we know that risk communication and crisis communication go hand in hand at all stages - including preparation, response and recovery.
Some may argue that "risk communication" only takes place before an emergency and "crisis communication" during - we argue that "emergency risk communication" should be part of the whole cycle.
Some key recommendations/finding on communication in the report:
You can download and read the full report here: First lessons from government evaluations of COVID -19 responses: A synthesis