2019 年 9 月，您挺身而出警告世界：一場大流行疫情即將來臨。
Why are we so smart to predict something? And yet we are not so smart to prevent it from happening?
In September 2019, you stood up and warned the world that a pandemic was on the way. How did you feel when just weeks later that warning came true?
There are certain times when you really are not very proud to be right. We ask ourselves, and we will wonder, why are we so smart to predict something, and yet we are not so smart to prevent it from happening? The answer lies in belief in science and data, and to translate that belief into a vision, a vision that will incentivize action.
I was in the room in New York when you made that warning. What is it that prevents us from listening? Is it human arrogance?
A human inability again to act on something that we have not experienced first-hand. It is also denial to a certain degree. It is also arrogance, as you rightly say. And that is the reason why we also call for active citizenship, to hold leaders accountable to promises that they make, and again we all have to be humble, and that humility should drive us to act early... then to respond early.
You not only said that a pandemic was already on the way, but when it arrives and touches us, it will cause loss of human lives, upend major economies, and also create social chaos. My question is, a year and a half on, have we seen the worst yet?
We've seen the bad and the worst will depend pretty much on our ability to act.
We are not so helpless in the face of shocks and hazards. We will always be confronted with some of them. But if we warned early, and that early warning is followed by early action, and if that early action is leaving behind a resilience and the capacity to withstand the next shock around, then we will be able to manage those shocks and hazards that will be coming our way.
You serve as the chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation. What does that work mean to you, especially given that you took over this role from Mr Annan so soon after his passing?
James, one does not “replace” Kofi Annan and one does not “succeed” Kofi Annan... you just come after him. And I owe it to the generosity of his family, the generosity of his companions, to have the privilege but at the same time to feel the heavy burden on my shoulders, to try to carry his legacy forward. The legacy for a fairer world and a more just world, and that's what the foundation stands for.
Growing up in Senegal, what were some of the early experiences that paved your journey to a life in public service?
The journey starts with simply being a witness of a lot of human suffering, seeing with naked eyes what it means to have very little, and having the privilege to be cared for, and being surrounded by wonderful people including my own mother.
Having the great luck and privilege to go to a public school, to a public university, and benefiting even from a government scholarship. It is quite natural after that to have the feeling to want to give back and wanting to serve, and I'm so grateful that I'm able to do that in my small little way... to give back.