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America has a “fake president”, Oz has “Scotty from marketing”, NZ has “Jacinda”

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Author Topic: America has a “fake president”, Oz has “Scotty from marketing”, NZ has “Jacinda”  (Read 415 times)
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« on: April 21, 2020, 06:36:24 pm »

from The Atlantic…

New Zealand's Prime Minister May Be
the Most Effective Leader on the Planet

Jacinda Ardern's leadership style, focused on empathy, isn't
just resonating with her people; it's putting the country
on track for success against the coronavirus.

By URI FRIEDMAN | Sunday, April 19, 2020

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. — Photograph: Simon Schulter/Fairfax/Headpress/Redux.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. — Photograph: Simon Schulter/Fairfax/Headpress/Redux.

THE coronavirus pandemic may be the largest test of political leadership the world has ever witnessed. Every leader on the planet is facing the same potential threat. Every leader is reacting differently, in his or her own style. And every leader will be judged by the results.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel embraces science. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejects it. U.S. President Donald Trump's daily briefings are a circus-like spectacle, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds no regular briefings at all, even as he locks down 1.3 billion people.

Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old prime minister of New Zealand, is forging a path of her own. Her leadership style is one of empathy in a crisis that tempts people to fend for themselves. Her messages are clear, consistent, and somehow simultaneously sobering and soothing. And her approach isn't just resonating with her people on an emotional level. It is also working remarkably well.

People feel that Ardern “doesn't preach at them; she's standing with them,” Helen Clark, New Zealand's prime minister from 1999 to 2008, told me. (Ardern, a fellow member of the Labour Party, got her start in politics working for Clark during her premiership.) “They may even think, Well, I don't quite understand why [the government] did that, but I know she's got our back. There's a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

She is “a communicator,” Clark added, noting that Ardern earned a degree in communications. “This is the kind of crisis which will make or break leaders. And this will make Jacinda.”

One of Ardern's innovations has been frequent Facebook Live chats that manage to be both informal and informative. During a session conducted in late March, just as New Zealand prepared to go on lockdown, she appeared in a well-worn sweatshirt at her home (she had just put her toddler daughter to bed, she explained) to offer guidance “as we all prepare to hunker down.”

She sympathized with how alarming it must have been to hear the “loud honk” that had preceded the emergency alert message all New Zealanders had just received essentially informing them that life as they knew it was temporarily over. She introduced helpful concepts, such as thinking of “the people [who] will be in your life consistently over this period of time” as your “bubble” and “acting as though you already have COVID-19” toward those outside of your bubble. She justified severe policies with practical examples: People needed to stay local, because what if they drove off to some remote destination and their car broke down? She said she knows as a parent that it's really hard to avoid playgrounds, but the virus can live on surfaces for 72 hours.

She expected the lockdown to last for several weeks, Ardern said, and for cases to rise steeply even as New Zealanders began holing up in their homes. Because of how the coronavirus behaves, “we won't see the positive benefits of all of the effort you are about to put in for self-isolation … for at least 10 days. So don't be disheartened,” she said.

In a more recent Facebook Live, one of Ardern's staffers walked into her office just as she was launching into a detailed explanation of what life would look like once the government began easing its lockdown. “Oh look, it's Leroy!” she exclaimed, assuring viewers that he was in her “work bubble.” A children's toy was visible just behind her desk. The scene seemed apt for an era in which work and life are constantly colliding.

While Ardern conducts more formal and conventional daily briefings with other top officials and journalists, she puts her personal touch on these as well. “Trump does his briefings, but that's a different kind of show,” Clark said. “On no occasion has Jacinda ever spun out and attacked a journalist who's asked a question,” she noted, in reference to the American president's repeated tirades against journalists. (When a reporter forgot his question upon being called on during a recent briefing, Ardern jokingly told him that she was concerned he wasn't getting enough sleep.)

“She doesn't peddle in misinformation; she doesn't blame-shift; she tries to manage everyone's expectations at the same time [as] she offers reassuring notes,” Van Jackson, an international-relations scholar at Victoria University of Wellington and a former Defense Department official during the Obama administration, wrote to me in an email. “She uses the bully pulpit to cue society toward our better angels—‘Be kind to each other’ and that kind of thing. I think that's more important than people realize and does trickle down into local attitudes.”

Ardern's style would be interesting—a world leader in comfy clothes just casually chatting with millions of people!—and nothing more, if it wasn't for the fact that her approach has been paired with policies that have produced real, world-leading results.

Since March, New Zealand has been unique in staking out a national goal of not just flattening the curve of coronavirus cases, as most other countries have aimed to do, but eliminating the virus altogether. And it is on track to do it. COVID-19 testing is widespread. The health system has not been overloaded. New cases peaked in early April. Twelve people have died as of this writing, out of a population of nearly 5 million.

As a collection of relatively isolated islands at the bottom of the South Pacific, New Zealand was in a favorable position to snuff out the virus. “Because we had very few cases wash up here, we could actually work toward an elimination strategy,” Clark said. “It is undoubtedly an advantage to be sitting down on the periphery [of the world], because you have a chance to see what's circulating from abroad.”

But Ardern's government also took decisive action right away. New Zealand imposed a national lockdown much earlier in its outbreak than other countries did in theirs, and banned travelers from China in early February, before New Zealand had registered a single case of the virus. It closed its borders to all non-residents in mid-March, when it had only a handful of cases.

Michael Baker and Nick Wilson, two of New Zealand's top public-health experts, wrote last week that while the country's ambitious strategy may yet fail, early intervention bought officials time to develop measures that could end the transmission of the coronavirus, such as rigorously quarantining at the country's borders and expanding COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

Jackson, the international-relations scholar, said that the decision by Ardern's government to unveil its four-level alert system (it moved to Level 4 in late March) at the outset of the crisis “was great at getting us ready psychologically for a step-up in seriousness,” a model that “couldn't be more different from Trump's ‘What will I do today?’ approach.”

The success, of course, isn't all Ardern's doing; it's also the product of an impressive collective effort by public-health institutions, opposition politicians, and New Zealanders as a whole, who have largely abided by social-distancing restrictions.

And that collective may be fraying. Although the government has unveiled many economic-stimulus measures, some opposition politicians and public-health experts are now demanding that the lockdown, which may be eased this week, be rolled back even further. They accuse the government of overreacting and argue that Australia has managed to reduce new coronavirus cases without the severe lockdown that New Zealand has endured.

Ardern is similar to Barack Obama in that she's “polarizing at home [while] popular abroad,” Jackson said. “But her favorables are never higher than when she's pulling the country through a crisis.”

Indeed, one poll by the market-research firm Colmar Brunton in early April found that 88 percent of New Zealanders trusted the government to make the right decisions about addressing COVID-19, and 84 percent approved of the government's response to the pandemic, in each case higher than what the company found in the world's seven largest advanced economies, including the United States. New Zealand citizens had come to support the government's policies even though many were feeling economic pain, at least in the short term, as a result of them.

Jackson cautioned that while Ardern and many young European leaders have expertly navigated the coronavirus crisis, he still worries about how this new generation of leaders will handle what comes after it.

“Strategic decision making and crisis decision making are very different,” he noted. “The world is going to be changed, largely for the worse, in the coming years. A great depression seems all but inevitable. China's strategic opportunism knows no bounds. Dictators everywhere are using the pandemic to solidify control of societies. Multilateral institutions aren’t delivering as promised. Getting through this crisis intact is just one step in a longer process toward a brave new world.”


Uri Friedman is a staff writer at The Atlantic, covering national security and global affairs. He was previously the deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy.

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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2020, 08:06:28 pm »

from The Washington Post…

Female world leaders hailed as voices of reason amid the coronavirus chaos

Women's achievements have stood in stark contrast to the bombastic
rhetoric of several of the world's most prominent male leaders.

By JENNIFER HASSAN and SIOBHÁN O'GRADY | 1:25PM EDT — Monday, April 20, 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a news conference in Wellington on March 24. — Photograph: Marty Melville/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a news conference in Wellington on March 24. — Photograph: Marty Melville/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

SILVERIA JACOBS is not messing around.

When coronavirus cases started increasing in the Caribbean nation of Sint Maarten, the 51-year-old prime minister delivered blunt instructions.

“Simply. Stop. Moving,” Jacobs said in a video address. “If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers. If you do not have bread, eat cereal, eat oats, sardines.”

The April 1 speech, in which Jacobs advised citizens to prepare as though a hurricane were on its way but not to hoard toilet paper, went viral, propelling the previously little-known leader to Internet stardom over her no-nonsense approach to the crisis.

Jacobs is one of several female world leaders who have won recognition as voices of reason amid the coronavirus pandemic. They have attracted praise for effective messaging and decisive action, in stark contrast to the bombastic approaches of several of the world’s most prominent male leaders — including some who face criticism for early fumbles that fueled the spread of the virus.

“We might think of this as a halo effect on some women leaders,” said Jennifer Curtin, director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Many women leaders have indeed been successful in controlling the spread of the coronavirus while also maintaining calm. Their successes have been amplified in part “because we see … a couple of hyper masculine leaders responding in a very aggressive way,” Curtin said.

Here are examples of how elected female leaders around the globe have responded to outbreaks of the coronavirus in their countries.

New Zealand

When it comes to saving lives and flattening the curve, few world leaders have attracted as much positive attention as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who took office in October 2017.

Ardern has a history of bold responses to tragedy. Last year, when New Zealand was rocked by attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that claimed 51 lives, Ardern pledged to cover funeral costs for victims of the country's worst terrorist attack, launched outreach to the Muslim community and pushed through changes to the country's gun laws.

Barely a year later, facing the threat of covid-19, Ardern shut the country's borders swiftly and prepared citizens for protracted measures.

Her messaging left no room for confusion. “To be absolutely clear, we are now asking all New Zealanders who are outside essential services to stay at home and to stop all interaction with others outside of those in your household,” she said.

Ardern's clampdown appears to be working, with fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases and 12 confirmed deaths reported in the country. She has held regular news briefings alongside top health officials but also pursued a relatable approach, streaming videos of herself at home on social media and telling children that she counts the tooth fairy and Easter Bunny as “essential workers.” Last week, Ardern announced she and her cabinet would take 20 percent pay cuts for six months.

She often emphasizes empathy in her public remarks, demonstrating, Curtin said, one “can actually lead with both resolve and kindness.”


After weeks of lockdown, Norway's infection rate has slowed so much the country has introduced plans to loosen restrictions on certain businesses and school closures.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Sweden, where fewer restrictions were put in place, cases spiked.

In an interview with CNN, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg credited an early lockdown and extensive monitoring for her country's relative success. She said she is allowing scientists to take the lead on the medical response.

She has received praise for a style of communication that extends beyond her scientific approach. In two news conferences in the past month, she shared messages meant for young people.

“It's okay to be scared,” she said soon after schools shut down. She said she missed hugging her friends.

“We think children should feel they are taken seriously in a crisis like this,” Solberg told CNN.


Around the world, testing shortages have left sick patients in limbo and disrupted official responses to the coronavirus outbreak, making it more difficult for health workers to identify and isolate infected people. But in Iceland, anyone who wants a test can get one.

The unusual approach is the result of a collaboration between the government, led by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and deCODE Genetics, a Reykjavik-based biotechnology company offering free tests. People interested in being tested do not need to demonstrate that they have been exposed to a known case of the virus or have symptoms. The joint initiative has allowed nearly 43,000 people to be tested — or roughly 11.7 percent of the island's population.

Iceland also launched an intensive contact tracing initiative that helped quickly isolate people who may have been exposed to the virus. Although social distancing restrictions have been put in place, the widespread testing and early containment measures provided Icelandic officials with key data that has allowed them to keep restrictions somewhat looser than leaders in some other countries. Officials announced last week restrictions will be lifted incrementally beginning on May 4.


Last month, as the coronavirus spread rapidly across Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a rare televised speech in which she warned Germans that the outbreak poses the largest challenge since the Second World War.

“I'm absolutely sure we will overcome this crisis,” she said. “But how many casualties will there be? How many loved ones will we lose?”

Constanze Stelzenmuller, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Merkel's remarks were unlike other public addresses she had given during her more than 14-year tenure as chancellor. “It was very direct, it was very straightforward, down to earth, empathetic and personal,” she said.

Every death, Merkel said, is “a father or grandfather, a mother or grandmother, a partner.

“It's people,” she said. “And we are a community in which every life and every person counts.”

The address marked a turning point in Merkel's leadership role in the crisis after early critiques that she hadn't acted quickly enough. Germany has confirmed more than 145,000 cases of the virus and around 4,642 deaths — far fewer than the number of deaths confirmed in Italy and Spain. Experts say widespread testing has helped officials track suspected cases more easily than in other countries.

Merkel extended the country's lockdown this month but also eased some restrictions on certain businesses and said schools will largely reopen in May.

Merkel, who has said she will not seek re-election next year, typically takes a more stoic tone. But many welcomed her change of pace in the face of such an unusual crisis.

“She was appealing to people's sense of responsibility and their ability as citizens to assess the risk and then do the right thing,” Stelzenmuller said. “It seems clear to me that she decided that this was an exceptional emergency and therefore required a different approach.”


As the coronavirus spread rapidly in China's Hubei province, the initial epicenter of the pandemic, early this year, the self-governing island of Taiwan recognized the risk the looming pandemic could pose. Travel to the island from China is common, with millions of people traveling between the two each year.

The Taiwanese government, led by President Tsai Ing-wen and her vice president, Chen Chien-Jen, an epidemiologist, took assertive early measures to try to limit the spread of the virus, restricting many visitors and implementing new mandatory health checks.

Months later, the island of around 23 million people is reaping the benefits — reporting fewer than 500 confirmed cases and six deaths.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Chen credited lessons learned from the 2003 SARS outbreak in helping the island prepare for and limit its exposure to this year's outbreak.

Taiwan's response to the coronavirus has not been without controversy. Taiwan has repeatedly criticized China's response, and earlier this month, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan of participating in a racist smear campaign against him. Taiwan demanded an apology and called the accusations baseless.


Jennifer Hassan is the social media editor for the foreign desk at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post in 2016, Jennifer was global community manager for the international chat app Viber. Before Viber, Jennifer honed her breaking news skills as the U.K. social media editor at MailOnline. Jennifer frequently reports from London and works closely with foreign correspondents. Jennifer is also responsible for leading The Washington Post's messaging app strategy. Hassan was educated at Walthamstow School for Girls in England and earned a B.A. in English and creative writing at Brunel University.

Siobhán O'Grady writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. She previously freelanced across Africa and worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy magazine. She was educated at Dickinson College and speaks fluent French.


Related to this topic:

 • REUTERS VIDEO: New Zealand extends lockdown by a week

 • Nations credited with fast response to coronavirus are moving to gradually reopen businesses

 • Tooth fairy and Easter Bunny are ‘essential workers’, New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern confirms

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