Only time will tell what the greatest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be, whether its effects on public health or on the economy are the most significant in the long run, but with unemployment rates soaring and many businesses closing, it is clear that the economic impacts will be profound to say the least.

In its April World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s – far worse, they say, than the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Given the present uncertainties, predicting global economic trends is quite difficult and forecasts become outdated on a daily basis. But whatever percentage the economy contracts by, what we must remember is that the pandemic is already having an immediate and severe on impact the lives of millions of citizens.

Small business owners, the working poor, undocumented migrants, the underemployed, and those working in the gig economy are particularly vulnerable. In order to support those who are hit hard by this lockdown, and to prevent the recession from becoming a long-term depression, we need immediate and co-ordinated actions that utilize the world’s best economic practices and proven emergency measures to blunt the impact. Cooperation is needed between countries and within countries if we hope to emerge from this recession and prevent the worst effects from taking hold.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Lockdown hit the world at a difficult time for international relations. Empty streets in Milan due to the Coronirus. [FLICKR/ALBERTO TRENTANNI/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

As a crisis that is still unfolding and one that is unprecedented in the modern era, there are too many unknowns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that inhibit informed decision-making. Governments are at pains to pursue the right approach to fighting the virus and protecting the economy. But we must be clear in our rejection of the false choice between safeguarding the health of citizens on one side, and keeping the economy going on the other. In fact, both containment and economic support measures are needed to protect lives and jobs. The challenge is to find the right balance.

To better understand the short- and long-term repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to share views on the expected impact of the measures being pursued by governments to mitigate the crisis.

This is why as Rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s committee on economic affairs, I am working with my colleagues in parliaments from North America, Europe and Central Asia to develop effective policies that prevent widespread company bankruptcies, mass layoffs, and system-wide financial strains.

Although we are unable to physically meet during this period, OSCE parliamentarians can share best practices in online forums and coordinate effective responses that place the needs of our citizens front and center. In the OSCE PA’s first webinar during this crisis, scheduled for 22 April, we will explore the contribution of parliaments and inter-parliamentary assemblies in responding to the challenges.

As parliamentarians, we understand that the role of national parliaments is more important than ever. Parliamentarians not only hold the power of legislation, but of oversight. It is up to us to make sure that laws and policies are adopted that target resources effectively, and to ensure that they are implemented properly. We must be vigilant against unscrupulous actors who would take advantage of this crisis to enrich themselves at the expense of others.

In order to support those who are hit hard by this lockdown, and to prevent the recession from becoming a long-term depression, we need immediate and co-ordinated actions that utilize the world’s best economic practices and proven emergency measures to blunt the impact

The long-term repercussions are yet to be fully comprehended, but it is likely that the crisis will affect regional security and cooperation. We saw last decade how the Global Financial Crisis sparked political instability in several countries, and even led to the collapse of some governments.

The current crisis has opened many eyes to the shortcomings of the global economy and the need to reconsider certain aspects of our current economic development system. While many are longing for things to go “back to normal,” we must ensure that we do not return to a “normal” that fails to protect the most vulnerable people. We must ensure in the future that our social safety nets are strong enough to ensure that nobody falls through. Here again, national parliaments should play an important role.

Many countries have already introduced emergency measures to counter the downward economic spiral, but to prevent the recession becoming a depression we need coordinated fiscal and anti-protectionist initiatives that fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the global economy.

Unfortunately, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Lockdown hit the world at a difficult time for international relations. There is a geopolitical reality that we cannot ignore, with competition rather than cooperation being the driving force in international affairs, and multilateral organizations being undermined at every turn.

The COVID-19 crisis could inflame this tension and exacerbate international competition, or it could bring us together in pursuit of a common response to the challenge. For the sake of this planet’s 7.8 billion people, let us work to make sure that it is the latter.

Dr. Elona Gjebrea Hoxha is a member of parliament from Albania and serves as rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s economic and environmental committee.