Note: This article was originally published and redacted in Spanish on the 8th of April 2020 in the website of the ‘Association of Professionals of Institutional Relations’ (APRI), the association representing Spanish public affairs professionals.
A few days ago, it was known that the United States was repurchasing, for 4 times its original value, orders of medical supplies that France had ordered from China, thus leaving France without emergency supplies. France, in turn, had been holding back shipments of medical supplies destined for Spain and Italy for weeks, just because they crossed French territory. Meanwhile, within the European Union, some Member States, led by Austria and the Netherlands, were opposed to issuing a joint European debt to help the most affected countries overcome the Coronavirus crisis, without proposing alternatives. As if that were not enough, international institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the United Nations (UN) have shown a remarkable inability to articulate a joint and compulsory response by their Member States to what has finally been declared a pandemic. These are the ingredients of an explosive cocktail, which can blow up any social contract between states, between their citizens and with each other, whether that relationship is understood from the top down or vice versa.
It is precisely this scenario that makes me think that the professional in institutional relations is, now more than ever, of crucial importance, not only because of his or her knowledge of national and international regulatory frameworks, capacity to build bridges of public-private understanding or ability to communicate the right messages at the right time, but also because of its capacity to contribute through its work and its strategic vision to anticipate the needs of a country, a region, a community that is going to have to act with the same speed with which it has fallen into the health crisis if it does not want the breakdown of the social contract to become an irreparable fracture.
This crisis that the COVID19 leaves us with will force us to change the action protocols in numerous sectors, both public and private, starting with the health sector, logically, which will have to rethink how to organise its supplies, procurement, personnel management, budgetary expenditure or public-private coordination, and continuing with that of security, social and economic forecasting, e-Commerce or the much-vaunted Telework, to mention some of the most obvious. Institutional relations have a golden opportunity to show that this is not about lobbying, that this is not about making the interests of one sector prevail, but that it is possible to work side by side, between the public and the private, in a transversal way between different sectors, so that everyone has a better place and a better fit in the social framework in which we relate to each other on a daily basis and that our societies are better prepared to face any type of future crisis, from any sphere – local, regional, national, European and even global – and in any sector.
If the crisis of the Coronavirus has led SEAT to start manufacturing respirators for patients with respiratory insufficiencies, if INDITEX has redirected part of its production to the manufacture of gowns and other types of sanitary textile material, or if cosmetics companies have stopped manufacturing creams and perfumes to produce disinfectant gels, why will it not be possible to take advantage of this capacity for transversal understanding to reorder and improve the way in which the public relates to the private and the sectors to each other?
Only if we manage to make society perceive our work as an added value to their lives – and not as a continuous struggle of particular interests – will we be able to make the profession, understood as an integral whole, become one of the most important social glue, whose work contributes to maintaining the social cohesion and balance needed to strengthen the social contract, and that institutional solidarity does not break down, favouring organisations that come out of this crisis that is teaching us so much.
The article is written by Guest Writer – Borja de la Torre. All views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organisation, employer or company.
|Borja de la Torre is Institutional Relations Expert at MAPFRE. After several years working in the public sector as an Advisor at the Ibero-American General Secretariat and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Borja de la Torre arrived at the Princess of Asturias Foundation in 2011 where he initially dealt with International Relations and became part of the Laureates and Candidatures team later on. Fluent in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, Borja holds a double Degree in Portuguese and Spanish Law, a Masters degree in International Relations and Communication and belongs to the 7th class of IESE´s Strategic Management and Social Leadership Program.|
Do you wish to cooperate with LobbyEurope and become a guest writer in our blog? Contact us!