If we had had an international health organization with a robust pathogen surveillance system in place when the first evidence of the coronavirus appeared, a fully resourced team of experts would have been immediately dispatched to work with local authorities to squelch the disease.
If the outbreak could not be contained, the organization would have led governments around the world in a coordinated campaign to stop it. The organization would have shared the most recent information and best practices for containment, coordinated consistent messaging the world over to help facilitate the most targeted, efficient, and effective response possible. It would have served as a traffic cop for efforts to develop treatments and vaccines and made sure that the best available treatments were available the world over.
After the crisis, the organization would study lessons learned so we can do even better the next time. These would include strengthening its surveillance capabilities, intensely preparing for the next pandemic, and working aggressively to buttress local health systems and help prepare local officials, civil society leaders, and general publics for future threats.
The World Health Organization is essential to our global response to this pandemic, but the states who created and fund the WHO never gave the necessary authority and resources we need it to have.
The same story could be told about most any other major global threat. Our government and international institutions, as great as some of them may be, have note been able to protect us. In the name of our common humanity and survival, we must change that.