COVID-19: Interview with Adao Silva on international cooperation, strengthening NATO’s political role and the challenges to democracies.

03 July 2020

Adao Silva, Head of the Portuguese Delegation to the NATO PA, shares his perspective on Allies’ collective efforts and solutions to overcome the pandemic, the dedication of health professionals, citizen mobilisation in the fight against the coronavirus, and the role of NATO’s role in building and enhancing resilience for the future.

4 questions with Adao Silva:

I.    Based on the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic by NATO and its Allies, how do you envisage the role of international cooperation in the field of defence in the response to global crises?

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge to our nations, and NATO mechanisms such as the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre are important tools to support Allies in coping with this crisis.

International Cooperation is a key element in the fight against the crisis that is profoundly affecting people, economies, and geopolitics, due to the significant security implications that can derive from it.

The coronavirus crisis has provided insight into challenges facing our democracies, such as disinformation and fake news. We are also faced with the spread of cyber threats and attacks. As an Alliance, we must cooperate in actively countering these security risks. Sharing best practices and lessons learned is particularly relevant to coordinate efforts and assistance, to find collective solutions and coordinate responses, to enhance our preparedness and to strengthen our resilience for the future.

Cooperation with other partners such as the European Union is also important to contribute to efficient coordination in the Euro-Atlantic area, as well as with other partners, such as the United Nations, by e.g. sharing information, best practices, and enhancing the global response to the crisis.

II.    What additional steps should NATO and Allied armed forces take to support the national and international response to the COVID-19 crisis? 

NATO and Allied armed forces play an important role in this scenario of uncertainty, where the maintenance of a security environment is essential to reassure our citizens and to help build and enhance the resilience of our societies in the future. 

It is, therefore, fundamentally important to strengthen NATO’s political role, improving Alliance unity and political coordination.

Allied armed forces have been most important in strengthening resilience and contributing to civil reaction and preparedness, as they have played a significant role in supporting domestic responses, providing support to civilian efforts according to their capabilities, in terms of logistics, planning, and expertise. As far as Portugal is concerned, the Portuguese Armed Forces have been engaged in several tasks ranging from providing field hospital tents to disinfecting infrastructure, transporting patients and citizens from abroad, as well as using medical and research facilities in the fight against the pandemic.

III.    The number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in Portugal has been low until now. While every country has faced unique circumstances in the COVID-19 crisis, do you see any lessons Portugal has learnt which could be applicable to other Allies on how to address the current pandemic and future health emergencies? 

There has been a mostly generalised national consensus in Portugal, both at the political and civic level, on the need to fight this virus in the national interest, along with the strong commitment, dedication, and mobilisation of all citizens.

All Portuguese citizens have been doing their part, showing a high level of responsibility, following the guidelines of the competent health authorities, as well as the confinement measures. The dedication and rapid response of the professionals at the forefront should be highlighted, from health professionals to security personnel, firefighters, and armed forces, as well as the workers ensuring that the economy and society keep functioning and that our basic needs are met. The mobilisation of companies for producing essential material in the fight against the coronavirus, such as protective masks, visors and disinfection material, and the identification of opportunities for partnerships in innovation and investigation that can enhance our preparedness for potential health emergencies in the future should also be mentioned.

IV.    What role do parliamentarians play in this crisis? And what role can interparliamentary diplomacy, including within the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, play to mitigate this crisis and prepare for the next crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic required new measures at the national level. The state of emergency was declared on 18 March, it entailed extraordinary measures and was renewed twice, until 30 April, when Portugal transitioned into the state of calamity. While it is for the President of the Republic to declare a state of emergency and for the Government to implement it, its approval and oversight lie with the Parliament and Parliamentarians. Therefore, the role of Parliamentarians is essential in this crisis. By continuing to legislate and oversee the Government’s activity, Parliamentarians guarantee respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens, as well as the preservation of democratic values. Interparliamentary diplomacy plays an important role, and organisations such as the NATO Parliamentary Assembly are essential forums for political dialogue, as well as to share best practices and lessons learned, to unite efforts for a stronger response to the crisis, as well as in the aftermath of the crisis.

Adao Silva, Head of the Portuguese Delegation to the NATO PA

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