Media Center / UN Sri Lanka launches ‘COVID-19 Asian Recovery Stories’; bringing together regional experts to share insights on policy interventions

UN Sri Lanka launches ‘COVID-19 Asian Recovery Stories’; bringing together regional experts to share insights on policy interventions

Posted on: 08 / 06 / 2020

Academics from National University of Singapore and Hanoi School of Public Health will discuss learnings from Singapore and Vietnam and their application to Sri Lanka, with local policy makers

Colombo, 8th June 2020: As the world grapples with responding to COVID-19 and its devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods, it is imperative that we learn from global responses, recovery measures, and policy interventions. Through the webinar series, ‘COVID-19 Asian Recovery Stories’ the United Nations in Sri Lanka is convening a group of regional academics to share their evidence-based research with Sri Lankan policy makers, influencers in Government, the development community, private sector, civil society and the media, to formulate policy interventions that can be applied to Sri Lanka.

Asian countries have been at the forefront of some of the most successful interventions and sobering lessons on containing the spread of COVID-19, as well as tackling the socio-economic effects caused by control measures, such as widespread lockdowns.

Speaking on the launch of this unique convening platform UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer stated “In this current dynamic environment, being agile in identifying, contextualizing, localizing and applying fresh insights is vital for successful policymaking. The UN in Sri Lanka is convening experts to tap into such thinking and promote learning from public policy interventions closer to home.  “COVID-19 Asian Recovery Stories” is a cross-learning platform that allows for sharing of emerging insights from Asia as we enter a new phase of response”.

The first webinar in the series will focus on ‘First Responses by Vietnam and Singapore’, to discuss important learning, data and questions that can be applied in public policy interventions across the region. The discussion will take place on June 10 at 11 am and those interested are invited to follow and pose questions on Facebook Live via the UN Sri Lanka Facebook Page.

Dr. Sarah Bales, visiting Professor at Hanoi University of Public Health, will elaborate on the Vietnam experience as an early success story in quickly and effectively containing the Coronavirus pandemic, with total cases limited to just 328 people and zero deaths. This rapid response has seen economic and social activity return to normal after just a month of social distancing under stay-at-home orders.

Speaking ahead of the event Dr. Bales said “Vietnam remains vigilant and cautious, placing priority on human lives and disease control while figuring out safe ways to boost economic activity. During the discussion, we hope to analyze measures implemented by Vietnam to achieve this, contextual factors that supported the effectiveness of this approach and the way forward”.

Sharing insights from Singapore, Dr. Reuben Ng Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and Dr. Patrick Daly Senior Research Fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, will present different areas of evidence generation that are informing the country’s pandemic response.

Dr. Ng will present “emerging insights from public responses in the region – observed through big data analysis of social narratives based on a 10-billion-word platform of over 7000 online sources across 20 countries”.

Dr. Daly will examine “how the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the trade-off between hazard mitigation versus the probability and consequences of a hazard. As well as recent data collected in Singapore to discuss how citizens perceive the risks and impacts, and how they have been adapting to cope with the mitigation measures – with some segments of the population disproportionally impacted by both the virus and the ‘cure’ ”.

As noted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres this virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. There must be a time to look back fully and understand the spread and reaction to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. Through the webinar series “COVID-19 Asian Recovery Stories”, the UN in Sri Lanka will continue to bring together experts to share insights, spark discussion, and engage in building back better.


Sinhala | Tamil (To be made available shortly)

The United Nations in partnership with the government and people of Sri Lanka is pursuing a Sustainable Development Agenda that leaves no one behind.  Collectively and through its specialised agencies, funds, programmes and offices, the UN strives to support the Government of Sri Lanka to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, with equitable access to quality social services, strengthened human capabilities, human rights and social cohesion.

Panelist Profile:

Patrick Daly
Senior Research Fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore
Patrick Daly’s research focuses on long-term human environmental relationships, the impact of natural hazards and conflicts upon societies, post-disaster recovery, humanitarianism, and cultural heritage. At the Earth Observatory of Singapore he oversees the Hazards and Society research group, which has on-going projects in Indonesia and Nepal. Patrick has worked extensively on issues of recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of both human and natural disasters, including over ten years analyzing recovery following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia and research on narratives of conflict and reintegration in Cambodia.

Sarah Bales
Visiting Professor at Hanoi University of Public Health
Sarah Bales is a visiting professor at Hanoi University of Public Health and an international consultant with extensive experience in the area of policy research and quantitative analysis in Vietnam where she has worked since 1992. She has provided consulting services on the health sector and poverty reduction to the Vietnamese government through international projects, policy research, including impact evaluation of the health care fund for the poor and capitation payment policies, She completed her PhD in Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in 2018. Her current work focuses on evidence-informed policymaking.

Reuben Ng
Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
Reuben Ng trained as a behavioural scientist at NUS, Oxford and Yale. He spent 16 years in government, consulting, and research. In government, he was in the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office driving evidence-based policymaking through data analytics and Singapore’s Smart Nation strategies.  In consulting, he co-built the advanced analytics practice at a top firm, and implemented complex analytics capabilities across industries and functions.  He is an expert in measuring social perceptions; teaches Policy Innovation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and leads a research program at the LRF Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk.