Sun Tzu is considered to be one of the most influential military strategists who ever lived. The year 2020 has seen the world united, waging one war, against COVID19. Perhaps, we can turn to his Taoist philosophy and wisdom for the chaotic world we are living in now.

Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. 
Sun Tzu

Our enemy here is not having sufficient knowledge of the total number of people affected by the virus because of insufficient testing. If one does not know the numbers, how does one prepare to fight. We are providing support to the Ministry of Health in enhancing the features to a digital system that will enable to identify COVID-19 infected patients at federal and provincial levels by using cellular data and other digital tools. Similarly, our assistance to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is technological with a focus on integrating the disparate data sources at the provincial level and then leveraging geospatial analysis for informed decision-making. This intervention will strengthen the government’s information management capabilities to foster resource allocation and decision making for crisis management.

  If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.
Sun Tzu

Instead of spreading ourselves too thin, we are playing to our strengths and keeping our support targeted. In response to the request from the Government of Pakistan, our inclusive, integrated crisis response management consists of establishing a Secretariat in the Planning Commission for multi-sectoral planning, financing and coordination and programmatic implementation; designing and setting up an Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) management and coordination system for Economic Affairs Division (EAD). We are also supporting both the Ministry of Health and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government in crisis management, data analysis, business continuity and enhancing supply chain management. The technical assistance being extended by UNDP to the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa includes vital economic operations management of socioeconomic shocks and strategic communication for public awareness on COVID-19 related matters.

The UN is helping the Government of Pakistan to plan a mitigation response to the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable. In this regard, UNDP has been tasked by the UN Resident Coordinator and the Planning Commission of Pakistan to coordinate and integrate UN agencies inputs into a social economic impact and needs assessment that will constitute the foundation of this response. It is focusing particularly on low-income daily wagers and labourers; factoring in gender dimensions, migrants, mobile populations, people living with disabilities and other marginalized groups (HIV/AIDS, transgender, etc.); their livelihoods, employment and access to social services.

Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.
Sun Tzu

The way the world operated will perhaps not be the same again. We have often read about the threats of a world where there were lives that were invisible to those in power; a world that was moving towards insular thinking and self-serving. This pandemic has proven to be a reality check for many of us in discovering our weaknesses. Now is an opportunity to build alliances and pool in our knowledge and resources. We should consider this time as a universal, innovative skill mapping exercise to defeat the peril that engulfs us all. To this purpose, we recently supported a National Health Hackathon. The online Hackathon was launched in response to finding preventative and curative local solutions on communicable diseases including COVID-19. A similar exercise was held through our Disaster Risk Reduction Hackathon in which we encouraged the youth to find innovative and sustainable disaster risk reduction solutions. These new alliances that we develop today will lay the groundwork for the post-recovery world. Our opportunity here is to build back stronger than ever before. UNDP’s Administrator Achim Steiner said it best: We will endure this together and we will recover and rebuild together.


Ayesha Babar is the Communications Analyst and Head of Communication Unit at UNDP, Pakistan.

Ayesha has extensive experience in the field of communication. Her career has taken her through diverse and diametrically opposite fields such as the military and electronic media. She has headed communications for the logistics wing of Pakistan Army, launched two Pashto-language T.V. channels and also headed communications for the European Union Delegation in Pakistan. She is a pragmatist and loves samosas and dogs. 

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